Like most winter visitors to the Eagle River Valley, especially those arriving into DIA, I had little sense of what existed past Dowd Junction and absolutely no sense of anything past the exit to Beaver Creek.  When my family first started our ski sojourns to the West, we ventured to the more accessible resorts on the route up I-70.  We did visit Aspen once, but, as usual, I was passed out asleep in the car as we rumbled the length of the Valley, not even waking to my father’s incantations about the majesty of Glenwood Canyon.  Now that I have made my home in Edwards these last fourteen years, I am well aware of the bounties that I missed on those prior trips.

Rastafarians, feeling that the term “oppression” sounded too buoyant, transformed it into “downpression” to better connote the actions of their tormentors.  Similarly, the term “down valley” has been interpreted as pejorative, especially if spoken from the unnaturally plump lips of a Vail socialite.  The term is purely geographical in my estimation, although I do understand that it tends to give not insignificant consternation to those tasked with marketing Eagle and Gypsum.  Removed in distance and temperament from the excesses of Vail Village, it is no surprise that these communities have attracted serious attention and development these last ten years.  I have “lost” more than a few friends to the trip past Red Canyon.

If it is good enough for Rocky Mountain Taco, then it is more than good enough for all of us.  The World’s Most Best Taco’s expansion into Gypsum is just the latest heralded arrival to parts that have heretofore lacked, or else tragically lost (RIP Bonfire Brewing), a quorum of anchoring restaurants.  10th Mountain Whiskey has long had its headquarters and production facilities in Gypsum, but may be better known to visitors by its taproom in Vail.  With the groundswell of enthusiasm and tourism heading into Gypsum, 10th Mountain is keen to welcome spirits enthusiasts back to its homebase, even as it works to continue to build its surrounding local community.  The high desert climate and plethora of events will make a great refuge while the upper Valley remains mired in snow and long after it melts.

These establishments join a small but mighty cadre of choice spots, established, new, and soon arriving.  Color Coffee is a sanctuary and its proprietor a compendium of beverage knowledge.  I can never leave there without a pastry and a bottle of something special.  Social Oak Wine has charm for days and the food to match.  Wild Sage is an exciting new concept from the culinary minds behind Drunken Goat and Cut; its menu will feature deliciously healthy creations to fuel the active and contemplative lifestyle.  El Segundo has an outpost slinging bomb tacos in the former Seven Hermits space.  And, if rumors hold true, more spaces are in the midst of development.

Of course, Eagle and Gypsum are being “discovered” in the same way that Columbus “discovered” America.  There are generations of families that probably have, at best, conflicting emotions about the way that the influx has impacted the nature of living down valley.  Time moves in only one direction and change is inevitable, but nostalgia for a simpler time is eminently understandable.  Now, ranchers stand next to mountain bikers in line at the grocery store, their vehicles in the parking lot easily distinguishable.  To some it may cause consternation, but I champion a variety of viewpoints.  At least those troubled by the change have great places to grab grub or imbibe a craft cocktail.  Tacos and whiskey are good for what ails.

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