The natural world and a tiny town


Will Rhodarmer

A view from Roaring Gap, NC on March 6.

Will Rhodarmer, [email protected], Arts & Features Writer

Connecting with the natural world truly is one of the most rewarding feelings life has to offer.

I’ll admit it: I don’t get outside and explore as much as I’d like to. The regular stresses and time commitments that inhabit my daily life make those kinds of commitments tough. When I am able to go on any sort of outdoor outing, it always seems to leave a lasting impression.

Roaring Gap, North Carolina is a tiny, unincorporated community close to the North Carolina-Virginia border. Over spring break, I had the opportunity to stay at a friend’s cabin in the heart of the community. 

The tone was certainly set by the two-and-a-half hour drive. As we got close to our destination, an unbelievable view crossed my eyes. Roaring Gap is right on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, and on certain points of the drive, a valley of flat land extending tens of hundreds of miles to the east was visible. 

Even though we were at a lower elevation than Asheville, it felt like we were on the top of the world. The valley, dotted with trees, structures and entire towns, eventually faded into pure blue and orange at the end of our sight line.

Arriving at the cabin was a worthy successor to what we’d just witnessed on the road. It sat right beside a small lake, which supposedly sat below its normal water line for this time of year. Inside the cabin, I was greeted by a variety of trinkets, knick knacks and a mix of 20th and 21st century decor. 

The pipes needed to be winterized for the season a couple of weeks prior to our trip, so we began hauling in the many jugs of water that would be needed for our stay.

The days that followed truly felt like the first days of summer, even though it was on spring break, which is technically still in winter.

From warmer than average temperatures, to throwing a frisbee in the early afternoon and cooking meals for each other, the first part of the trip may be the most vividly I’ve ever felt the term “spring break”. In Roaring Gap, there weren’t many commercial activities to drive to and participate in. Instead, we broke out board games.

The second day involved a sort of “view-hunting”. We spent a while driving around and looking for the best views around sunset. It certainly did not disappoint – some of the most unassuming locations held the greatest of vantage points. The two best spots were on a golf course and close to someone’s yard.

On the last full day of the trip we decided to embark on a hike at the Stone Mountain Trail, which was a few miles away from the cabin. I’ve been on a few hikes in my life, but none quite as arduous as this one. The section we ended up taking was a five mile loop to the top and back around to the base.

The unique part about Stone Mountain is right in the name; at many points on the journey sit large, exposed rock faces. These slabs were sometimes large enough to stretch past most of our immediate sightline. Laying down on them was oddly comforting considering they’re, you know, rock.

Most of the rock faces sat on cliff-like edges, past which was always a breathtaking view. On that day, not a single cloud was in the sky. Even though my somewhat ill-equipped feet eventually screamed in pain, the pure beauty before my eyes at every stop was almost unfathomable.

Reaching the peak felt like conquering the world. We were so awestruck that we agreed to have a 10 minute silent period in order to fully take in the scenery and listen to the wind blow through the trees. Small streams flowed through the creases of the rocks, eroding deeper grooves ever so slowly. 

The way down was slightly treacherous, with two miles to go to complete the loop. I felt my feet lurch to the front of my shoe with every downward impact. Nonetheless, we made it back to ground zero and departed back to the cabin.

After a much needed night of rest, we started the trek back to Asheville after four days and three nights spent in Roaring Gap. Even though I had only stayed for half a week, this tiny community had almost started to feel like home.