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West End News March 24

Ski conditions on BWCA Wilderness lakes have been excellent this week according to Bill Hansen of WTIP's West End News
Ski conditions on BWCA Wilderness lakes have been excellent this week according to Bill Hansen of WTIP's West End News

Finalcut_WEN_20110324.mp34.56 MB

It was a pleasant surprise this week to see a wave of news stories out of the Twin Cities about West End native Solveig Tofte. Solvieg is the daughter of Karen and Orton Tofte, Jr. She lived in Tofte until she was nine. Her aunt and uncle, Meg and Greg Tofte, are the only members of her immediate family that still live in Tofte, although she has great aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives scattered liberally throughout Cook County. Solveig has been a renowned and award winning bakery chef for years, but she is currently in the news because she has started her own bakery and cafe, called Sun Street Breads in south Minneapolis. She has been the subject of very flattering articles in the Duluth News Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a number of other publications in the Twin Cities. The most exciting news is that Soveig has been gathering old family recipes for inclusion on the menu. She especially mentioned what she called the all-holy fish cakes, that are the glue that holds her extended family together. Many of us are very familiar with that particular Tofte family tradition. I know that Sun Street Bakery will be a regular stop for me when I get to the Cites and a regular request for deliveries from people who are traveling north from Minneapolis. I have no doubt that Solveig's sunny personality, Tofte family intelligence and Scandinavian work ethic will make her business a big success!

Solveig Tofte is just one of the many distinguished alumni of Birch Grove School in Tofte. If you would like your child to get an excellent start in life, there is a wonderful opportunity for you at Birch Grove right now. The Sapling Preschool program is offering free preschool during the months of April and May for any child that is due to enter kindergarten next year. The Saplings Preschool is open from 7:30 A. M. until 3 P. M., Monday through Thursday. The program uses the Core Knowledge Sequence and adheres to the Minnesota Early Learning Standards. The staff is professional and caring. The hours and days of participation are flexible and bus transportation is free if you live on an established bus route. The majority of scientific evidence now clearly points to the early childhood years as the most crucial in determining the happiness and success of an adult. This is really too good of an offer to pass up. You can contact the Birch Grove Community School at 663-0170 or find more details online at

As I predicted last week, the ski conditions on BWCA Wilderness lakes were excellent this week. Up until a couple of days ago, you could ski fast almost anywhere just as though you were on a groomed trail. One day last week, I skied the loop around Sawbill, Kelso and Alton Lakes by myself in the late afternoon. When sun works on the ice surface this time of year, it reveals all the ski, snowshoe, toboggan and dog sled tracks from the entire winter. They appear as ghostly traces - very clear to see and all but flush with the surface of the ice. It tells the tale of much winter fun. It also shows that it is almost impossible to move in straight line when you traverse an open, featureless lake during the winter. On this day, there were large puddles of standing water out in the middle. When there is no wind and the day is moving toward dusk, these puddles perfectly reflect the sky. They are also almost frictionless for skis, so you can glide great distances with no effort. If you look down at that moment, you can get the illusion that you are suspended in a light blue void filled with golden and pink clouds above you and below you. It is an earthly glimpse of a skier's paradise.

On Alton, I spotted a very large otter that appeared and disappeared several times as I approached it. When I reached the spot, I found a hole in the snow that led down to the open water. It was surrounded by otter scat, which is mostly comprised of the red tinged exoskeletons of crayfish. I waited quietly by the hole with my camera, but the otter was too smart for me and didn't reappear. It’s almost mystical how they can dive under the ice and stay there long enough to swim down the lake to another hole where they won't be bothered by a curious skier.