CARLSBAD — "This is probably the most urban hike in the book," said Jerry Schad, zipping up his jacket as he prepared to set out from South Carlsbad State Beach early one recent morning. "But even though there are houses and cars nearby, they're hard to see from the beach. Most of the time you feel isolated between the ocean and the bluffs."
He led the way across immense piles of round cobbles that seem to be a permanent feature of Carlsbad's beaches these days--tough, noisy walking at first. But with customary foresight, Schad had timed his hike to coincide with low tide, and soon was walking south on soft, flat sand that would be submerged again in a few hours.
It wouldn't occur to most people that there is a five-mile beach hike between South Carlsbad State Beach and Cardiff State Beach. But you'll find it listed under Trip 1 in area B-1 of Schad's new book, "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County."
There is probably no one who has more experience hiking in the county than Jerry Schad. Few hikers could match his zeal for the outdoors, either. So it was logical that in 1984 the Berkeley-based Wilderness Press asked Schad to write a guide to hiking in the county.
"We knew Jerry had written hiking guides before," including one covering Santa Cruz area and a previous guide to San Diego County that listed only 35 trails, said Thomas Winnett, president of Wilderness Press. "He's a dedicated, competent outdoorsman as well as a writer. We never considered anyone else."
Schad responded with detailed descriptions of 176 different hikes
for "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County," which was published this month and is available in San Diego bookstores. Included in it are routes that range from ridiculously easy to amazingly difficult; some ramble past mountain waterfalls and others lead to twisting mud caves in the desert.
"Nowhere else in America," he writes in the book, "is such a broad range of natural environments so close and conveniently located, and so available year 'round, to such a large population."
And the population is becoming aware of it. In the Cleveland National Forest, the number of people hiking more than doubled between 1982 and 1985, with hikers accounting for more than 121,000 of the forest's total 2,276,800 recreational visitor days in 1985 (a visitor day is defined as one person using the forest for one day). Meanwhile, visitor use in Cuyamaca Rancho and Palomar state parks has climbed 33% over the last 10 years to 750,000 visitor days in 1985, and one out of every 10 visitors is a hiker, according to a state parks spokesman.
Those figures are likely to increase now that Schad's book is out. As he strode briskly down the beach, Schad explained that he tried to write "Afoot and Afield" for as wide an audience as possible. "It's absolutely the most complete guide to hiking in San Diego County that has ever been published.
"For each hike, the book explains how to get there, what precautions--if any--to take, and something about the plants and animals you'll see along the trail." A system of symbols also identifies the difficulty of the hikes and the type of terrain they pass through. And Schad has included 50 maps that offer limitless opportunities for planning and daydreaming.
Keeping in Shape
Schad, who teaches astronomy part time at Grossmont and Mesa colleges, began his research for the book in December, 1984. Over the next five months he hiked nearly 1,000 miles.
"With 176 different hikes, you'd think some would be pretty dull, but I'd do all of them again," he said.
Keep in mind, though, that this is a guy who looks for an excuse to hike the way most of us look for an excuse to eat. Schad is 38, with a 5-10, 132-pound frame that is as lean and hard as a tree trunk.
He first got interested in outdoor exercise as a student at UC Berkeley. From riding his bicycle a few blocks to school, he quickly moved up to riding 100 and sometimes 200 miles a day. Once, he rode his bike from San Jose to San Diego in three days.
Then he discovered running. For a while Schad ran marathons (his best time was 2 hours, 53 minutes); after that he started running on wilderness trails. He has run across the Grand Canyon twice--that is, down one side, across the Colorado River, and up the other side.
"Actually, I got bored with running and I don't race any more," he said. "I still run 25 miles or so a week, but that's less than I've done for years and years.
"Why do I do it? Because it keeps me prepared for anything I want to do. If I want to climb the highest peak in the county or run 40 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, I can do it without going through a training program.
"Running is just a faster way of hiking," he added. "If you run 10 miles at a stretch, which I can do pretty easily, it's easy to cover 30 miles in a day."
Knows the Turf