Sunday Profile: Dave Taylor’s long path to helping
Ten years ago, Dave Taylor had just had both his hips and knees replaced after a debilitating disease. Five years ago, he was on the road to addiction recovery after a stint at the Jaywalker Lodge and was opening a recording studio in Carbondale. Last month, at 59, he summited Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise money and awareness for the endangered black rhino.
“I’ve learned the benefit of living and the present and allowing life to take me where I need to go,” he said. “If I’d stayed on the track I was on, I’d have missed so many opportunities I have now. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance, and I want to give back.”
Growing up in Georgia, Taylor began dabbling in radio at the age of 15.
“I was blessed with a really deep voice,” he said. “My dad had one too, but he was a dentist.”
Through an array of radio jobs around the country, he ended up in New York and did voiceovers on television commercials. He met his future ex-wife through acting classes there, and after awhile they grew tired of the city and decided to move to Aspen.
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“At that time, it had all of the things we liked about the city but it had a quietness about it it doesn’t seem to have anymore,” Taylor said. “Coming to Colorado was a change of lifestyle for me. I was burned out and this was new and different.”
It worked well for more than a decade, with Taylor taking a break from radio to work with horses and an outfitting company. In 2005, however, he began having severe arthritis-like symptoms, which were ultimately diagnosed as hemochromatosis. After his hip and knee replacement, he was placed on narcotics for the pain.
“I was in really bad shape,” he said. “I’d always been a partier, but it all came to a head when I got on painkillers, and I had to have help.”
He was particularly concerned about the impact on his children, Audra and Noelle.
“It’s a disease that’s very hard on the people around you,” he observed.
Taylor ended up at the Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale, and things began looking up.
“When I got into rehab, I picked up my guitar again and it became a big part of my recovery,” he said.
He’d had a small studio in his home before rehab, and decided to pursue it more seriously. In 2011, he opened up Cool Brick Studios a block off Main Street in Carbondale.
“I was really fortunate to open up in a community of creativity,” he said. “From the get-go, there has been a steady stream of projects coming through the front door.”
In order to make ends meet, he also began doing video work, although he was resistant to the transition at first.
“I started working on this horse training video, and by the time we got done with that I was hooked,” he said. “I began to see the parallels between video and audio.”
He’s now working on several documentaries, including one on his recent climb.
“My passion is going to beautiful places with my camera,” he said.
Taylor did his first ascent with Aspen-based nonprofit Climb for Conservation last year in the Andes. Under the program, climbers pay their own expenses and use their efforts to inspire sponsors to donate to a conservation cause.
“Climbing is a metaphor for the struggle these endangered species are going through to survive,” he explained. “What we’re going through is nothing compared to what they’re going through in their effort to stay on the planet.”
This year’s trip was particularly poignant for him.
“I’ve wanted to go to Africa ever since I watched ‘Hatari!’ with John Wayne as a kid — which is everything that is wrong about how animals are treated,” he said.
He ended up getting his wish in 1997 for his honeymoon, which only whet his appetite to return.
“Out in the bush, man is not the top of the food chain,” he said. “You’re truly immersed in nature.”
The Climb for Conservation trip would be a joint venture with a group from the Denver Zoo for a total of 14 climbers, 10 of whom summited. The cause, which ended up receiving $10,000, was the Mkomazi Rhino Preserve, run by famed conservationist Tony Fitzjohn.
“There’s less than 100 rhino left in Tanzania, and a third of them are in this preserve,” Taylor observed.
That population includes former zoo animals who lack the skills to be released into the wild, but their offspring might be. As part of the trip, the hikers got to tour the preserve, which also supports African hunting dogs and elephants.
Seeing things firsthand and spreading the word is part of the perk of having people on the ground instead of just soliciting donations.
“It’s walking the walk,” Taylor said. “It represents what individuals can do with a common goal.”
The trek itself followed the Marangu Route up Africa’s highest mountains, following a series of huts to base camp before an overnight summit push over rough, but not strictly technical, terrain to the 19,341-foot summit.
“You look up and all you see above you are the headlamps of the people ahead. It goes on forever,” Taylor recalled.
Two members ended up needing supplemental oxygen, and Taylor ended up letting a guide carry his camera gear.
“I was 10 years older than anyone else in the group,” he observed. “At the top of that think I felt like I was dying. Every step was soul wrenching.”
Taylor had trained hiking and biking Mushroom Rock all summer, but he wasn’t a mountain climber before he had a cause.
“I know there are other problems out there, but we’ve reached a critical mass with these keystone species in Africa,” he said. “They need all the help they can get.”
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