Baby Taylor, a hiker’s sound machine
August 9, 2006
There aren’t many options when it comes to a backpacking guitar. Martin offers a version with a tiny y-shaped body and a tin-can sound. Moving up slightly in weight and massively in sound are the 3/4-size Martin and Baby Taylor. The Taylor, with a solid mahogany top, was cheaper and sounded snappy with a bit of a bluesy twang. So I bought it. Sure, it’s small, but it has big sounds, weighs 4 pounds with the case and carries easily into the backcountry.What I didn’t realize was that the Baby Taylor would begin a historic quest. Climbing a fourteener is hard-core, but what could be more hard-core than rocking out on the summit? Or rocking out on all 54 summits?
I decided to climb them all, and play my guitar on each.About two weeks ago, my buddy Dylan and I set off early, carrying only the essentials, on a mammoth slayfest (a hard-core term that refers to knocking off as many fourteeners as possible in a single- or multiday hike). Dylan’s puppy Angus was feeling spunky and pooped on the trail early on, but that didn’t slow us down. We were on a mission. The trail went up, we passed people and didn’t look back. Sure it was pretty, but this was about the glory, so we kept cruising, carrying only our Camelbaks (the guitar was hooked to mine) and some energy bars. We powered up Mount Belford and found about a dozen people on top hanging out, which was the first surprise. I hadn’t realized (until I looked it up) that half a million people attempt to climb a Colorado fourteener each year.
Then I broke out the guitar and tried to tune it up but my fingers had turned into little sausages, as though each one had been stung by a bee.So I punched out a few crappy chords, rocked a bit, got a little groove on with a great deal of effort. Then we cruised over to Mt. Oxford and did the same. Dylan got in a song or two. We felt pretty good.A few days later, I hiked the guitar to a secret spot and sat on a rock. No one was around. I played for about two hours. Bathed in a nearby stream. Played some more. Ate some yummy treats. And that little Taylor sang.
It’s a sweet baby. Better than a beach guitar. Weighs next to nothing. But it sounds better than plenty of standard axes.So we (my Taylor and I) decided to leave the fourteeners to everyone else and enjoy the peace and quiet where it’s a little lower and my fingers are quick and nimble. Plus, with the way I sing, it’s probably best to leave it to the flowers and the trees. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org