THE COOLEST SMALL TOWNS IN THE U.S.A.

Fayetteville, West Virginia

Pop. 2,670

Rafting the New River (Moira Haney)

On a plateau above New River Gorge National River park, Fayetteville is an adult's all-natural playground. In the last decade, a wave of adrenaline junkies has come to the southern West Virginia town for work (mostly as river rafting guides) and opted to stay for good. "There aren't many towns in the U.S. where you can walk out your front door and recreate in so many ways," says Kenny Parker, a transplant from nearby Blacksburg, Va. "There's world-class white-water rafting, some of the best rock climbing around, and excellent mountain biking." Parker and fellow rock climber Gene Kistler co-own Water Stone Outdoors, an outfitter that specializes in climbing gear (101 E. Wiseman Ave., 304/574-2425).

Sharon Rynard also divides her time between the outdoors and her indoor business. A painter and printmaker from Indianapolis, Rynard moved to Fayetteville 10 years ago to be a river guide. These days, she's also a climbing guide, ski patroller, and owner of Studio B Gallery & Gifts (101 S. Court St., 304/574-9100). "Why would anyone stick with just one thing in a place where there's so much to do?" she asks.

Fayetteville's nerve center is Cathedral Café (134 S. Court St., 304/574-0202). A deconsecrated Methodist church--stained-glass windows and all--it's where locals meet to sip coffee, catch up on river reports, and check e-mail. The restaurant is owned by Wendy Bayes and her husband, Rick, who met in Fayetteville as river guides nearly 15 years ago and thought running a café would be a good way to put down roots after their daughter was born. Bayes hasn't given up her thirst for adventure, though. She still makes time to go out on the river and hike nearby trails: "You never have to grow up. It's like Neverland."

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