K2 - Texas Rock Crawling Lives!
Story by Nolen Grogan
Photos by Nolen Grogan, Bruce Mitchell, Todd Kaderabek
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Last year, South Central Rock Crawling enthusiasts were blown away with news that Katemcy Rocks Off Road Park was closing at the end of the season. For nearly a decade, the Kruse Family and Shain Chapman had hosted some of the finest crawling in the country. When word came down from the landowner that the party was over, rock crawlers from all over poured in to Katemcy Texas to enjoy one last ride on the unique pink granite trails and to listen to the squeaky windmill under a blanket of stars. Behind the scenes, Randy Kruse and Shain Chapman hit the ground running looking for another place to open a park. Randy tells me he wore out 3 pairs of boots looking at potential sites.
The new site, dubbed K2, is about 18 miles south and west of the old Katemcy Rocks site. The new location is nearly the same acreage, but at K2, more of the property is usable for wheeling. Instead of large domes of granite, K2 has a series of sharp ridges throughout the East side of the property with rough points. On the Western side, pasture land blends with rocks allowing our smaller tired brethren some nice places to explore without too much chance of body damage.
Finding K2 is a snap. Just 6 miles west of Mason, Texas, on Hwy 29 just past the aptly named town of Grit, you will see the old Katemcy Rocks metal sign on the left. Pulling into the property, you will immediately see that Randy and Shain learned a lot of lessons from the old park. As you drive in through an impressive grove of Live Oak, the park spreads out in front of you. Since taking possession of the property in February, the gang has installed a well-packed RV accessible road, Office, Pavilion, Guest Cabins and a concession building. RV hookups and showers are still in the works. Primitive camping is 10x better at the new park, with a beautiful grove of Live Oak trees surrounded by a creaked that kept my kids occupied for 2 days straight.
Since taking possession of the property, local 4x4 groups have been pitching in to work on the facilities and the trails. In just 2 short months, the amount of work in camp only slightly overshadows the amount of new trails that have been cut. I could not believe how much was already marked with trail names when I took my first trip out on the rocks. My group snuck out of the property on the Northeast access trail and immediately jumped into a hard trail called Hannibal Lector. This trail is a mix of vertical ledges, tight turns and boulders. BIG boulders. The trail was nicely marked with yellow reflective tape on the rocks. With so little traffic on the trail to date, picking a line was up to the driver in most tight spots as there were few, if any marks on the rocks. Our small group moved through the trail slowly as we often has to climb out of our buggies to scout ahead. Looking over to the East, I saw a HUGE group of Land Cruisers making their way slowly down the Fence Line trail. This trail is the perimeter trail and unlike the Aggie Highway at the old Katemcy Rocks, this trail is not for the faint of heart or the lightly modified vehicle. Unlike most times when it is dry as a bone in this part of Texas, record rains this winter has the trails covered with mud in spots that was a show stopped for all but the most highly modified rigs.
After we dropped down from Hannibal Lector, we wound out way through the center of the property. Big boulders surround this access trail. There is seriously no limit to the number of options you have at this place. Every rock is a potential climb. We rounded the corner and I see a group of spectators perched high on the rocks watching some action. We pointed our group toward them and blazed our own path to them hitting a constant stream of refrigerator sized boulders along the way. As we arrived where the others were we got to watch the last vehicle in at group of highly modified full-bodied Cruisers make a sweet technical climb. Shane Morrell, aka Killerpee was spotting Dusty Lawhon and they put on a great show for us. We hit a few rocks with this group and they sent us back across to the west side to the swimming hole with a description of some nice walls to climb. We lost one in our group to a bad air compressor so my buddy Pat Holland and I went on our own.
The rocks in this section were tall and steep. I tried a few super steep climbs and the combo of red label Krawlers and rough, dry granite allowed for some seriously sick climbs. Pat and his wife Debbie stuck to me as we made quick work of this section and went on a sick game of follow-the-leader back the way we came. The options to this on the new property are endless. We would pick a hard crack line and then jump on a vertical then drop over into a flat grassy section that was littered with rocks the size of your desk.
We ran alone for quite a ways. This is saying a lot since there were nearly 100 vehicles signed up for the Lone Star Land Cruiser Roundup. It is amazing how "big" a 400 acre park can be if the terrain is right. Finally we happened upon a fairly large group of built rigs blazing a new trail along the Fence Line trail. we weaved our way past them and were heading back for camp when I saw a totally sick near vertical climb that was marked with reflective tape. I nosed my buggy up to feel it out and decided I needed to get out and scope it out before I committed to the climb. Just as I got out, this crazy dude topped the hill and started telling me that I basically did not have a hair on my arse if I did not get back in the buggy and hammer down. After I crawled it, I stopped to talk to this interesting character. He calls himself The Ripper and was the first one up the climb, therefore he was able to name it. Therefore, when you get to K2 and you want to try something sick, just get directions to Ripper Trail and you won't be disappointed.
Rip was kind enough to lead me around from there a bit and show me another great climb he cut on the back side of Hannibal Lector. This trail he named Kowboy's Arsehole for some reason and again, I was not disappointed. Thanks Rip for the guide. By then it was time to go back to camp and check on my family. The kids were still knee deep in the creek mining for quartz and my wife was taking advantage of a full AT&T signal and was getting some paperwork done on her laptop. Night time came slow as Texas as Mr Brisket from Bonham TX fed us and Lone Star Land Cruisers entertained us with a great raffle, free beer and a band under the new pavilion. Word of a killer storm approaching had some people battening down the hatches in the campground, but most were just enjoying the warm weather and the great music.
At about 4 am the weather took a serious turn for the worse and straight line winds of near 70 mph tore through camp from the north bringing with it a 40 degree temperature swing. We went from shorts and t-shirts to 20 degree wind chills and snow in less than 12 hours. Numerous tents were a total loss in the morning and debris was scattered in the trees all over camp. Luckily it was only property that was damaged when the beleaguered campers emerged from their tents and campers at dawn. The sleet and wind put an end to some of the Roundup attendees, but the remaining 50 people moved to the town of Mason and enjoyed a John D Hale show at the Steak House. It was a great save and everyone really enjoyed the change of venue out of the horrible weather.
While crazy weather changes are not uncommon in central Texas, they are certainly not the norm. I have spent many more star-filled nights with the K Rocks crew than bad ones. I cannot wait to get back and cut my own trails. There is a ton of area left to explore and you can bet the K Rocks crew will take great care of you.
See you on the trail!
The Rock Midget