John Goutcher of Preston excitedly tells Preston Library patrons about the wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed while visiting the Boundary Waters over the years.  John Goutcher of Preston excitedly tells Preston Library patrons about the wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed while visiting the Boundary Waters over the years.
John Goutcher of Preston excitedly tells Preston Library patrons about the wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed while visiting the Boundary Waters over the years. John Goutcher of Preston excitedly tells Preston Library patrons about the wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed while visiting the Boundary Waters over the years.
Despite the weather thermometers recording a -15 degree temperature on Thursday, Feb. 27, around 30 local residents braved the frigid cold to attend a presentation on the Boundary Waters at the Preston Public Library. John Goutcher of Preston spoke on many of his experiences in that area over the past years.

He introduced his presentation with a short video reflecting the beauty and sounds of the Boundary Waters plant life, rivers and wildlife. Each picture within the video blazed with radiant colors, sunsets, waterfalls or animals.

At the start of his talk, he sought to define the word wilderness and gathered information as to what other people thought it meant to visit the "wild." Some defined it as being away from all technology, no hotels, peaceful, scenic and beautiful. Goutcher described it as a place of serenity, spirituality and adventure.

The area of the Boundary Waters was preserved by the 1978 Wilderness Act to be an area completely foreign to today's technological world and the great reliance people have on it. No buildings, except for a historical building, exist within the whole 2.4 million acres comprising the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and Quetico in Canada.

A no-fly zone has also been erected to keep the sounds out of this particular area. "In the 1930s, wealthy people would fly sea planes to private parts of the Boundary Waters that no one could drive to. This disrupted the serenity of the area," he stated.

The no-fly zone was set, but only rose to 2,000 feet at first. Then jets from Duluth roared over the wilderness by that mere margin. The serenity remained disrupted. As a result, the no-fly zone increased to 20,000 feet in order to preserve the quiet.

Goutcher described the Boundary Waters as not always having been like it is today. Many, many years ago that land had been much like it is in southern Minnesota. Then the weather grew colder and the glacier moved in, forcing all the vegetation and animals out. Long afterwards, the glacier receded, bringing life back north.

As the glacier receded, the ice gouged out pieces of land and chunks of ice melted in their place forming kettle lakes. Old and new animals and vegetation returned to the Boundary Waters. Then, in the 1800s, most of the trees were cut down and more grew in their places at the same rates resulting in a fairly level forest today.

Throughout his talk, Goutcher informed the listeners of his trips and the entrances to the area. "Most people come through the commercial area where there are buildings and hotels. I like to go through the wilderness entrance for the quiet and to hear the loons," he explained.

On his trips, he and those he leads start 60 miles away from the nearest town. The trip is meant to teach people many things they may not have learned in this day and age elsewhere. One is to realize they do not need to be afraid of the darkest night. Another is to learn to live with seven other people for eight to 10 days with no modern conveniences or communication tools - like cell phones and internet, allowing them to come to an understanding of who they are.

Goutcher shared that he took his first trip in 1956 and was forever hooked. In 1958, he guided his first trip solo. Over the years he has worked with individuals in the Outward Bound program. One of the priorities for his work with them is to promote cooperation. On a canoe trip, people must work together to get anywhere. Instead of competing with everyone, they learn to cooperate in order to get home.

"It is interesting to see how people react and to listen and see the changes in the people. I have seen quiet, sheltered people blossom throughout one of my trips," Goutcher reflected.

As the evening wore on, members of the audience participated in the discussion. Several had been to Boundary Waters before and they related a few stories of their own in addition to those of the speaker. The tales ranged from bugs biting someone to a black bear trying to eat some cookies laying on top of a cooler hanging in a tree. Other stories focused on not even keeping toothpaste in a tent and a mother bear running off with the top of a girls swimming suit.

At the end of the evening, everyone mingled to talk some more and partake in the refreshments provided by the Preston Area Arts Council. Everyone agreed they had enjoyed their time listening about the Boundary Waters.