In the late afternoon, after a physically hard day of building trails, a group of shirtless young guys take turns belaying each other as they scramble up a huge rockface. These climbing-lovers are answering the call of southern West Virginia’s Nuttall sandstone. Named for early coal developer John Nuttall, its 98% quartz composition means it’s one of the hardest sandstones you can find. “This is the best sandstone on earth,” says rock climbing guide Paul Nelson, who moved here from Utah. “People come from all over the world to climb.” Then there’s the population drawn here by the rivers . Hang out in the New River Gorge for a few days and you’re likely to meet young rafting guides, middle-aged rafting guides who’ve been navigating the New and Gauley rivers for decades and people over 50 who started as rafting guides and moved up to manage or own recreation outfitter companies. They come here for the drenching, tricky rapids and the natural beauty of the river ribboning its way through a deep, forested gorge. The river gorge and its sandstone walls are two big reasons that this area became the United States’ newest national park in December 2020. I […]

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