New writer takes over Jerry Schad's popular 'Afoot & Afield' hiking guide

Scott Turner has some big shoes to fill.

Some big hiking boots.

The Vista resident’s name is on the new edition of “Afoot & Afield San Diego County,” a co-authorship with the late Jerry Schad, who made the guide — more than 200 hikes compiled over 30 years — the bible for local outdoor enthusiasts.

Thousands of dog-eared, coffee-stained copies of it sit on bookshelves, under car seats, in backpacks. It’s not uncommon to arrive at a trailhead and see someone else in the parking lot, nose deep in the pages before starting out.

“He opened a door for anyone who ever used his book,” Turner said. “He told them, ‘This is your backyard. Go out and see it.’ There is a long history of people discovering the outdoors because of him.”

Schad died on Sept. 22, 2011, six months after being diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. The longtime community college science professor and San Diego Reader columnist was 61.

His first “Afoot & Afield” — one of 16 books he authored — came out in 1986 and was updated three times while he was alive, the last in 2007.

Turner, 38, is a marriage and family therapist. Raised west of Los Angeles, in the Agoura Hills area, he started hiking as a teen and never stopped. He moved to San Diego’s North County in 2012 and used the Schad guide extensively for his own hikes, which he documents in posts for several websites.

“It just feels like I’m at home in the natural environment,” Turner said. “When I hike, I am a much nicer person. I am much easier to be around.”

Because trails change all the time — sections get destroyed by fire or flood, access across private property gets restricted, new routes get created — guidebooks can become outdated. During his hikes, Turner noticed things about “Afoot & Afield” that weren’t the same any more.

“Why doesn’t somebody update it?” he wondered out loud to his wife, Kelly.

And she said, “Why don’t you?”

He contacted the publisher, Wilderness Press. Editors there told him they were looking for someone to take on a revision. He sent them a proposal and they liked it.

The new edition just came out.

“My job was to take care of the book,” Turner said. “The analogy I use is it’s like I inherited my uncle’s 1965 Mustang. l might need to change the tires. I might need to touch-up the paint. Maybe a new stereo. But I don’t need to rebuild the Mustang from scratch.”

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