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Handicapped Get A Dusty Taste Of Off-Roading

For 13 straight years, a Sonora four-wheel drive club has given Mother Lode handicapped persons a taste of off-roading in the beautiful Sierra Nevada.

Mud, Sweat and Gears 4×4 Club, Inc. will again host “Kids On The Rocks.” The event takes several dozen physically and mentally challenged persons of all ages for a memorable ride in the Stanislaus National Forest on the renowned Niagara Rim Trail.

Kathy Avery of Sonora founded the event in 1991 and has been there every year except one. She and her husband Dave are very active in the 4×4 local club as well as in the statewide California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs organization.

This year, for the first time, the event will be held on two days: Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29.

The fun off road adventure has been successful, in part, due to the cooperation of the Summit Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. The Forest Service€™s Steve Bailey said Smokey Bear would make a return appearance both days. The famous bear is always a highlight for the participants.

Avery said one of the passengers in her Jeep two year€™s ago was terrified of Smokey because the gal was afraid of bears. “With some coaxing and observing others hugging Smokey, she finally joined the group,” Avery remembers. “Guess who was first in line to greet Smokey the following year?”

Avery said some of the participants have been on “Kids On the Rocks” several times. For others, this is their first experience riding in an off-road rig, four-wheeling in some of the forest€™s most beautiful surroundings.

Saturday, the Sonora club, with the help of other local, valley and state four wheelers, plan to take 30 people from the Christian Berets on the half-day trip. Sunday about 20 folks from the WATCH Program will share in the fun.

The journey begins at 10 a.m. at the Niagara OHV Campgrounds off Highway 108 in eastern Tuolumne County. By the time the group gets to their lunch stop, everyone is dusty, hungry and all smiles. A Polaroid snapshot records the days for each of the riders.

All the drivers volunteer their time and expenses for the annual event, getting their payback in the heart-felt satisfaction of seeing the excitement in the eyes and the smiles of the participants.