Getting to Know Chris Cornell on the Way to Breckenridge

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In a Big Country

Driving out of the Denver Airport one wonders where they’ve just landed.  Wide open spaces are all you can see with the mountains looming in the distance.  Usually you think of an airport being on the close outskirts of the city but here it is all grass and sky.  If you continue west on I-70 eventually you do see Denver and it seems very industrial with a short sighting of the downtown skyline, but the traffic was light and the mountains beckoned.

We found a couple stations we liked on satellite radio but soon settled into Lithium.  Bobbing along with some of our favorite 90’s songs, it was clear they were honoring our recently fallen Chris Cornell with a heavy selection of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog.

So Say Hello to Heaven, Heaven, Heaven

We whizzed past a sign that said, “Elevation, 5280 ft.”  Awe and realization hitting all at once as I remembered Denver is known as the Mile High City.  Bit by bit as we left the city, the mountains edged closer and closer.  We had missed three days of snow but on the start of our drive it was sunny, the snow caps parading its glory.  If you couldn’t tell from the scenery or the popping in our ears, we were getting higher.  Signs showing our elevation went higher… over 8000 ft, when we exited from the expressway just over 9000 ft, and then just before Breckenridge it hit 9600 ft.

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Chris sang, “I was lost in the cities/Alone in the hills/No sorrow or pity for leaving I feel.”  Surprisingly, I did not do my characteristic planning that I am inclined to do.  In this case, it felt right as we rolled past the curves and hills.  Every sign was an exciting possibility.  Here are some that caught my imagination.

  • Argo Gold Mill
  • Buffalo Overlook
  • Buffalo Bill’s Resting Place and Museum
  • Golden – Home of Coor’s Brewery
  • Frisco Historical Park

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After a couple days, it was time to make the return trip.  Just before Frisco, we noticed that the haze actually was some scattered clouds.  We were so high up that the clouds were just above us.  Highway 9 circles the Dillon Reservoir.  There is a scenic overpass closer to Silverthorne.  It’s a great stop for pictures.   Every view is lake and sky and trees.  As we continued on, I noticed Clear Creek follows alongside for miles.  I pictured settlers swimming and retrieving water from this stream a hundred years ago.  As we came down the mountain, I repeatedly turned around to see the mountain receding until finally I could only see some green hills and we rolled down to the glittering spread of Denver, a much different perspective than on our way up.

In the same way, I had a new appreciation for Chris Cornell’s voice – so powerful and moving – a perfect backdrop for the imposing, but alluring  mountains.

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