The world of California hiking lost one of its singular voices today, when Jerry Schad died from cancer at age 61.
Schad was a consummate renaissance man. A long-time college professor in San Diego who taught astronomy, physics and geology, who once biked 352 miles in one day, he was also known for his stunning photography and his seminal “Afoot and Afield” series of hiking guidebooks. Many people have been inspired to explore Southern California’s natural areas after reading about them in Schad’s books; many of the hiking trips posted on this blog were originally covered in an “Afoot and Afield” volume.
Schad’s writing was as inspiring as it was informative. He didn’t just provide facts and figures, although his knowledge was certainly comprehensive. His accounts of the hikes made the reader feel as if they were right there on the trail. Here’s his description of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness in “Afoot and Afield in Orange County.”
Down along the creek, a warm breeze carries the scent of sage and blooming chaparral. There’s no sound but the distant drone of bees, the soft music of water coursing down polished rock, and your own footsteps. A fat gopher snake lounging by the creek stiffens at your approach. Tiny fish dart about in the stream eddies, while a pond turtle launches itself from a rock shelf, deftly slicing through the surface of a crystalline pool.
Schad will certainly be missed; it’s sad to think that the next time an “Afoot and Afield” volume is updated, it will not be done so by him. But while his passing may have been untimely, he has left a huge legacy of information which has benefited countless outdoor enthusiasts, and will continue to do so. Anybody who has hiked in Southern California after reading one of his books owes Schad a debt of gratitude, one that can be paid simply by continuing to visit the trails that he loved so much.