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High Flows and Ice Woes; Kayakers enjoy surging waters in town, Ice Crit race leader experiences heartbreak 

George Cocores takes to the Deschutes rapids during the coldest months in Bend.

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George Cocores is an adapter.

While plenty of us sat around bitching about the lack of snow and inoperable lifts at Mt. Bachelor, Cocores was getting his.

The experienced 49-year-old kayaker has been taking advantage of unusually high flows on the Deschutes River as it runs through town. He's already matched his goal of 50 runs on the Class IV+ stretch of water known to whitewater fiends as the Riverhouse run. The stretch surges from Sawyer Park to Tumalo State Park and is a popular experts-only section of the river due to its proximity to town. It's an easy three-hour session if the flows are adequate, which means above 500 cubic feet per second according to Geoff Frank, owner of Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe.

Last winter, a friend challenged Cocores to get in 50 Riverhouse runs during Bend's coldest months.

"I had to bust it at the end to get them all in, but this winter I hit 50 runs yesterday," Cocores said this past Sunday afternoon after taking off the Deschutes which was running at 1,170 cfs.

That's roughly double the seasonal average, according to Jeremy Giffin, the man who literally has a handle on things.

Giffin is the Deschutes Basin watermaster and his job is to store and release water from the reservoirs that feed the Upper Deschutes. This winter his task has been more about spilling water than saving it, after a particularly snowy winter and wet spring in 2011 resulted in an abundance of water that has carried over into this winter. Natural flows this past spring further reduced irrigators' reliance on "stored" water.

"I ended the irrigation season with a lot of water left over," Giffin said.

He went on to explain that reservoirs like Wickiup, the second largest reservoir in the state, are now so close to capacity that they risk overflowing. Anticipating more precipitation, Giffin is working to free up more space without flooding the yards of the handful of folks in Tumalo living along the water's edge.

"I'd anticipate the flows staying at least this high," Giffin said. The Deschutes hit 1,350 cfs just three weeks ago and Giffin expects more 1,300-plus days on the Middle Deschutes. To put that in perspective, that's about 10 times the average summer flow, which typically hovers around 125 cfs below Bend during the irrigation season, which stretches from mid April through mid October.

"The bottom line for me is a good, healthy flow at Riverhouse," Cocores said. "It works out great for us."

Earlier this winter Cocores said he sent a text to five people asking if anyone wanted to take a run.

"Nineteen people showed up. It's wonderful to have flows up and have so many boaters in town," said Cocores.

The High Desert Education Service District employee took advantage of an unusually high summer season too. Cocores said he managed 108 runs on the short Meadow Camp section (from the Meadow Camp picnic area to the Bill Healy Bridge).

According to Cocores' log book, on July 11 he paddled the Meadow Camp section at 2,250 cfs, a summer high for Cocores.

For now, Cocores, whose paddling is mostly limited to weekend sessions, is making the most of winter.

"Backcountry ski on Tumalo, lunch, then do an afternoon Riverhouse run - that's a great day. In fact, I did that yesterday," Cocores said on Sunday.

2012 Ice Crit

The annual free-for-all winter bike race known as the Ice Crit is a debaucherous come one, come all event that generally rewards the person who best exhibits an ability to remain upright throughout the 15-lap "race."

This year, the top prize went to Rob Landauer after mountain biking icon Paul Thomasberg slipped and dropped his chain on the last lap.

The event was staged at the oval parking area at Wanoga Sno Park and, while there was no fire jump on course, there was a raging bonfire nearby, as well as a "snowball gauntlet" that hounded the costumed racers on every lap. Nearly 50 well-lubricated spectators lined the course to hoot, holler and lob snowballs at the 25 racers, five of which were on unicycles.

After the Le Mans start, a practice that requires racers to run from the starting line to their bikes, which, in this case, were about 200 feet away, Thomasberg quickly grabbed the lead and never looked back. Thomasberg held Landauer, recently voted Bend's hottest male nurse by Source readers, and local shredder Luke Mason comfortably at bay while riding his regular trail bike with no modifications for the snowy conditions.

Thomasberg, storied trail builder, Shimano product developer and former pro, pushed it through the corners almost drifting on the new snowy surface in an effort to maintain his lead.

"It was great to have good snow," said Lev Stryker, a co-owner of Cog Wild who was also in the mix before a costume malfunction effectively ended his podium chances.

When Thomasberg's luck ran dry, Landauer was there to take advantage, leaving the venerable mountain bike veteran to finish in second place. Mason secured third. John Livingston, of J. Livingston Bikes, won the costume contest with his furry, white abominable snowman suit that scared more than a couple of youthful onlookers.


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