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Region is steeped in blue and gray Civil War history
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The state boasts many large, historic parks in close proximity
Get a Grip: four-wheelers in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Rocks, rivers and woods offer plenty of thrills for four-wheelers
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Get a Grip: four-wheelers in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina

Steep hills and a revving engine can bring a whole new meaning to the words "rock 'n' roll."

Four-wheeling is a sport for rough riders, played to the music of roaring engines and screaming tires.

Trail riders, mudders and rock crawlers can all find places to play in the four-state region -- some on national park land, some leased from private owners.

What's your poison?

There are as many ways to four-wheel as there are vehicles to do it in:

• Trail riding is popular for ATVs and side-by-sides -- think four-wheel- drive golf cart with big tires and a roll cage -- on trails ranging from manicured to minimal.

• Rock crawling is partly about giant tires and high suspensions, partly about engine power and a lot about smart, careful steering.

• Rock racing or "rock bouncing"?

NASCAR with boulders. 'Nuff said.

Source: Alan Shirley, trip coordinator with Scenic City 4WD

Big wheels turnin'

Four-wheeling's a social sport -- you need that gang of buddies to help when you hang up on a rock or find that mud puddle's deeper than you thought. Some clubs are oriented around a single make of vehicle; others are open to everyone. Here are three to get you started:

East Tennessee 4WD Club at

Scenic City 4WD,

Southern Four-Wheel Drive Association,

Gotta have it

If you get stuck, you're gonna have to get yourself out. If you don't have the right equipment, don't go. Here's a partial list from one club's website (some other sites' lists are much, much longer):

• Mud tires

• Fire extinguisher

• Spare tire, jack and lug wrench

• Front and rear tow hooks

(for vehicle attachment points)

• Snatch strap

• Garbage bags (your own trash and

possibly a little trail cleanup)

• First-aid kit

• Seatbelts for everyone

• Battery bolted down (no bungee cords)

• Legal exhaust system

• Flashlight, tools and spare parts; all interior items tied down or secured

• Leather gloves, appropriate clothes

• Food and water

• Winch

Source: East Tennessee 4WD Club

Oh, the places you'll go

Try these sites first, for a great all-around experience.

• Royal Blue, LaFollette, Tenn.

• Gray Rock, Mount Olive, Ala.

• Houston Valley, Ga.

• Beasley Knob, Blairsville, Ga.,

• Uwharrie National Forest, N.C.

Rocket City Rockcrawlers has a longer list covering several states:

-- By Staff Writer Judy Walton