Margo: Nothing middling about the midvalley |

Margo: Nothing middling about the midvalley


“So is town totally dead?” my mom asked me the other day for what must have been the second or third time. “Steamboat is totally dead. There is no one around, and all the restaurants are closed.”

“I don’t know, Mom,” I said, trying not to sound annoyed. “I don’t live in ‘town’ anymore, remember? I’m in the ’burbs now, where there is no offseason. People, like, live here all the time.”

I’m still getting used to people calling Aspen “town” as if Basalt and Carbondale don’t count. My friend Ambere sent me a text the other day that said, “You in town? Want to meet up?” And I’m on my way home from yoga, so rather than trying to type with my thumbs, which I so totally hate and despise, I call her.

“I’m all gross from yoga. You need to give me advance notice,” I chided. “But I can be at the Brick Pony in a half hour.”

“I’m in Aspen,” she said. “I just wanted to see if you were up here.”

This is my first full year in Basalt, and it has been a miraculous one, as I’m seeing the seasons change for the first time in a whole different way.

The summer was hot and sunny and dry, but then I discovered we now live 10 minutes away from a huge body of water and can paddleboard and go boating and even sit on the beach and swim, and that was a revelation — more for Ryan than for me. As a Minnesota kid, he loves lakes. He thinks lakes are the coolest. When we go for a hike, it’s not to climb a peak. Oh, no. It’s to find a lake.

“There has to be a lake around here somewhere,” he’ll always say when we explore a new area. “There is a stream, so that means there has to be a lake.”

We’d go up to Ruedi sometimes just to walk the dog, and Ryan would stand on the rocky beach with a can of Budweiser as happy as if he were drinking champagne on the deck of a yacht.

“Isn’t this awesome?” he’d ask, taking a huge swig of beer. “We live near a lake. We can come up here anytime and do this.”

“Um, yeah, it’s pretty cool,” I’d say, deciding it was not the time to point out that the beach was rocky, that it was kind of cold and that I hadn’t seen the ocean in over a year.

Then with fall came colors I’d never seen — the scrub oaks that surround our house turning burned shades of orange and red like a sunset or a fireworks display. Then the snow came, etching a new landscape into the red rock spires so every day was like a new work of art. In March I discovered that early spring at a lower elevation can get up into the 70s and there were days when we could come home after skiing, throw on a pair of flip-flops and a tank top and drink Coronas on our patio and start working on our summer tans.

Mud season comes earlier, too — a lesson I learned the hard way during a particularly harrowing descent on Arbanney Kittle in a mud cycle (think Ute but twice as long and no switchbacks).

We do get to have spring, though. Not a few days at the end of May before summer finally kicks in but real spring: bright-green grass and buds blooming, and the best part of all is the wildlife. It is everywhere, in abundance, looking right at you as if to say, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Living on the Fryingpan, the wildlife lets you know the animals were here first because when they encounter you, they don’t really seem to care. During one bike ride Saturday, we saw a bald eagle, a few bighorn sheep, a fat goose in the road (it would not budge, so we had to go around it), a massive herd of elk (which love to torture Ryan by just standing there in large numbers in full view when he doesn’t have a gun and it’s not hunting season) and of course the trout that are so big you can see them as you’re riding by — you don’t even have to stop to take a look.

Then the other night, when I was walking our dog George in our neighborhood, we came across a herd of at least 30 deer. They just stand there and look at you with their big, beady eyes and tall ears, and maybe they gather closer, but they don’t bound away or run or even turn their backs. They almost look like aliens that just got off a spaceship and are considering making the first move, some kind of friendly introduction. That’s when you know you’ve really gone off the map, when you start comparing deer to aliens.

The wildlife doesn’t care that the lifts are closed. The river doesn’t stop flowing in April — it picks up, turning up the volume on that wonderful soundtrack that comes with living close to it. The girls are still at Saxy’s dishing out the best coffee in town, Angie’s still at Traffic waiting for my mom and me to come in for another shopping spree, and Whole Foods is still serving free samples of grilled pork chop and gluten-free lasagna and spelt pretzels for me to try — again. And Jane is still at the new Bristlecone, which is the first outdoor/mountaineering store where I ever have wanted to buy clothes.

Life in the midvalley has its own rhythms, and what I love about it is that it’s not about tourists or seasons or how many inches of snow fell on the ground but something all our own.

Eventually all things merge into one — and two rivers run through it.

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