Scott Turner has hiked more than a thousand miles carrying Jerry Schad's invaluable Afoot and Afield, so when he offered to update what is the best San Diego hiking franchise, he knew he had big shoes to fill.
"I can't overstate how valuable this book has been to me," Turner said. "I really, really worked hard because this is the book that opened up hiking for me."
Jerry Schad's death from liver cancer in 2011 sent Afoot and Afield into limbo.
Jerry Schad was a Mesa College professor, an astronomer, an ultra-athlete, a husband, and a good friend to many who also found the energy to write about San Diego's trails.
Afoot and Afield is revered by hikers, whether they are good for a one-mile stroll or an 11-mile uphill climb in near wilderness — whether it is in San Diego, L.A., or Orange county.
Schad also wrote the Roam-O-Rama column in the Reader from 1993 until his death in 2011. Before succumbing to kidney cancer, he wrote his obituary, saying his life had been full of "discovery and adventure."
Turner came to the Schad franchise the way most of us did — he wanted to start hiking when he moved here five years ago, and he looked for a decent hiking book. With Schad's books, he got a smart, quirky friend who taught him how to look at trails and what's near them with a knowledgeable, informative eye and a quiet confidence that the reader can do what he did.
"My experience of the outdoor world is so rich — that's what Jerry gives you," Turner said. By setting an example and teaching you about what you're seeing, he encourages you to learn about the natural world and to feel there's a place for you there."
For Turner, hiking helped him through the stresses of grad school, getting married, and moving to San Diego from Los Angeles.
"I have a bad day, I literally walk it off," he said. Turner's day-job, as a marriage and family therapist, means that he works around stress all the time.
"There's an authenticity you get only from relationships and from being outdoors that has a healing power but also takes you out of your own worries."
Turner already had a hiking blog of his own (ScottTurnerHikes.com) and carried Schad's book around in the trunk of his car in case he got the chance to hike. The fourth edition came out in 2007, and Turner was starting to see where information was no longer current.
"The parking lot had moved or the trailhead, or parts of a trail had been closed for years," he said. "I'm not writing it, I'm trying to keep it alive and relevant, to take care of it in a way Jerry wouldn't be bothered by."
Don Endicott, a close friend of Schad's, encouraged Turner to update the book, telling him Jerry would hate to see his work become useless. So Turner approached Wilderness Press and asked if they'd like the book updated.
"We look to update our books every five or six years — and Jerry's last book was in 2007," said Tim Jackson, acquisitions editor for Wilderness Press. "But who do you turn this franchise over to? And with the numerous stories we heard about how much the books mean to people, this is the bible of San Diego hiking. You can't just turn the keys over to anyone."
As Jackson and Turner talked about the project, Jackson came to believe Turner was a good fit. "He exemplified a true passion for San Diego hiking and a reverence for Jerry Schad and the book," Jackson said. "He wanted the book to be the fifth edition of Jerry's book."
Turner hiked every trail in the book. Along with the update, he added more trails to it and turned in the finished copy in March. "By the time it comes out, it will be a decade since Jerry's last edition," Jackson said. "[Turner] came onboard as an unknown quantity and proved to us he is worthy of the franchise."
Turner not only walked the trails, he rekindled relationships with the people and agencies that manage the land they're on. So he can tell you about a new trail being cut in the Cleveland National Forest, about U.S. Fish and Wildlife working with the San Diego Mountain Bike Association (two unlikely collaborators) to reestablish the Mother Miguel trail and about their views on the constant tension between protecting the land's resources and letting people wander around on it. Just as they try to steward the land, Turner said he sees his role as stewardship for the Schad legacy.
"I have to take care of it — it belongs to people as much as it belongs to Jerry, and now me."