I thought I’d lined up my maiden run for this year when my friend Mike called to plan a trip down the Indian River for the last weekend in March. Always a fun paddle, if a little shallow, and a perfect way to shake off the rust in my paddling joints. However, my neighbour Thom and his longtime partner in chaos Chris beat that plan to the punch with another quick trip I couldn’t resist (but likely should have) – dropping into the base of the Gut and running the Crowe River on down to Cordova Mines. At least that was the plan!

We arrived at the Gut Conservation Area just in time to set up for a chilly spring camp with the temperature stable at around -2C. While our HQ back in Lakefield had a thick coating of ice on everything, the area between Apsley and Coe Hill had gotten mostly snow, so there were a few inches on the ground to really give this a winter camping feel. I’d already had to double back for some last-minute essentials, so I thought that the rumbling in my own gut was just nerves about being late to the party. Turns out it was more than just nerves, and after hiking in and setting up camp my gut was roiling something fierce. Perfect timing! Couldn’t ask for a more appropriate place to toss your cookies, though, both for the name of the place, as well as the view you come back to when you finally lift your head! Luckily, two quick bouts of nausea seemed to do the trick and we all did the best we could to help me rehydrate and get back some of the energy stores I would need for a big day of paddling and portaging to follow.

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We didn’t bring along the hot tent for this trip, so we had to rely on sturdy down bags to keep us warm well below freezing, and everyone awoke warm and ready to shoot of the rapids we’d been listening to all night.  After cowboy coffee and some of Briagh’s homemade baked goods toasted up for breakfast the other boys began assembling Thom’s 16′ Pakboat Canoe while I struck camp.  We hiked the overnight gear back out to the drop off vehicle on Lasswade Rd. and commenced the drop down from our campsite to riverside.  Even with the wooden staircase leading down to the roaring waters.  The snow made for an easier portage as we could use the boats as sleds, and pile in our gear as well.  That said, the trail leads to a particularly gnarly stretch of the Gut, where the waters of the Crowe drop nearly 30 meters, channeled through a narrow chasm for a quarter of a kilometer.  We opted to drop into the river in the final throes of the Gut cataract and officially opened the 2016 paddling season with a whoop and some very carefully-placed strokes.

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