Saturday, July 30, 2011

The End of an Era

When I first began traveling to new climbing areas, my favorite "away" spot quickly became the New River Gorge. The bulletproof rock, solid protection, and endless miles of uncrowded cliffs made the New very appealing. To this day I am still convinced that the finest cragging area in North America is the New River Gorge. It's unmatched in terms of both the quality of the rock and quantity of outstanding memorable routes.

My friends and I always bummed around, never paid for camping, and always took our tent down in the morning so it wasn't stolen. When I met my life partner Dolci, who is a long-time summer resident in the "New", I began staying at Roger's Rocky Top Retreat. I had never stayed there, and being a fairly quiet, slightly introverted individual I was leery of the scene. Now, after years of staying at Roger's and getting to know some of the locals, I know that the scene Roger has created at the Rocky Top Retreat is both priceless and fleeting.

Each summer some individuals come and go and the weekend crowds from DC, Richmond and Virginia Beach routinely trickle in all night long every Friday night. Some faces, however, remain the same at Roger's. These people come back each summer because Roger Fox has cultivated a friendly and open community at the Rocky Top Retreat.

It's true, there is very little flat shady ground, the toilet might bite your bottom, and the shower, "7 minutes of Heaven" feels more like 7 minutes of Hell in the summer. Climbers who want nicer camping go elsewhere. Climbers who want friendly, funny conversation, a porch where everyone feels like family, and a host who remembers every single visitor stay at Roger's.

With the release of a new guidebook to the NRG, climbing here has again blossomed and the area's popularity has increased. This summer, during a week-long visit I counted 40 tents at Roger's. In all my years there I've probably never seen more than twenty tents at one time. I guess there are a lot of other climbers who have also recently discovered the good company found at the Rocky Top Retreat.

This fall, after the climbing season at the New winds down, Roger will close his doors for good. After 18 years of acting as a friend, brother, father, babysitter, comedian and caretaker Roger has decided to sell his land and retire from the campground business. It's true, the cadre of seasonal "local" climbers will migrate to some other campground and create a new scene. After a few years new visitors to the NRG won't even know there was a special place like Roger's at the New. Those of us that spent appreciable amounts of time there, however, will have wonderful indelible memories that we'll recount as some of our best times ever. Thank you Roger, your company will be sorely missed by all who came to camp on your land and climb nearby.

Roger's land (4-5 acres) is for sale and interested parties should contact him directly. It would be really wonderful to see a new campground spring up in this very location.

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