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Jerry Schad's Last Hiking Book For San Diego

Coast Walk, La Jolla
Patty Lane/KPBS
Coast Walk, La Jolla
Hiking enthusiast and author Jerry Schad passed away in September, his last hiking book has just been published. We talk to his widow Peg Reiter.
GUESTPeg Reiter, widow of Jerry Schad

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. In September, San Diego and KPBS viewers said goodbye to a man who loved the natural beauty of this county and couldn't resist taking a walk in it. Jerry Schad introduced an untold number of people to the breathe taking variety of trails and landscapes in San Diego. He wrote about them, and he showed them to in his afoot in the field series on KPBS TV. When he died of cancer earlier this year, Jerry Schad just published his final book about hiking. Here to tell us about it is Jerry Schad's widow, Peg Reiter. Welcome to the show. REITER: Thank you, I'm delighted to be here. CAVANAUGH: If our listeners would like to tell us where they like to hike or what they're learned from Jerry Schad, please give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. This was Jerry's 15th book. And it's a very different kind of book from the big Afoot and Afield series. Tell us about 50 best short hikes in San Diego. REITER: Well, this book I had the pleasure of doing with Jerry. I met him in March of 2010. And on our first date, he told me he was writing his last book. Little did he know it really would be his last book. The reason for that, he knew that he was going to keep Afoot and Afield current and he planned on doing that until he couldn't stop walking at age 99. But this was going to be his last book that he took from the very beginning to the very end and started from scratch. So I had the pleasure out of these 50 hikes, hiking 32 of them with Jerry in a span of about 6 or 7 months. So this book is incredibly special to me. CAVANAUGH: And it's -- its emphasis is for -- on people, even beginners who don't walk around much, who don't know much about hiking. Will tell me a little bit about the hikes included in that book. REITER: This book is different from Afoot and Afield in that it covers a smaller geographic area. That goes from the ocean to imperial county, and further north too. With this new book, 50 best short hikes, the focus really is Oceanside down to imperial beach, then about 20 miles inland. And it covers that geographic area. And it's intended for people who are avid hikers or those who don't do much walking at all. Probably a quarter of the book deals with urban hikes, if you will, where you just walk out your door and you start moving. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh. REITER: And he deals with very simple hikes or walk, if you will, on sidewalks versus things that are on more rocky, steep, crumbling terrain. CAVANAUGH: So the book will give you an idea of exactly what kind of an elevation you're going to be find something how difficult the hike will be? REITER: Most definitely. So when you open up the book and you decide on a hike, he will tell you whether there's an elevation GAIN, he'll tell you how far the hike is, he'll let you know in his descriptions if you're looking at sidewalk or trails. That sort of thing. He'll let you know if you need tennis shoes or sandals will work. CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. Also how long are these hikes? REITER: They vary anywhere from one mile to 8 miles. And most of them are very doable for the average person, quite honestly. CAVANAUGH: What are some of your favorite hikes in this book? REITER: Well, it's interesting. When I met injury Jerry, and a lot of people don't want know this, he was really becoming an urbanite. And he was living downtown in a high-rise condo tower, which was shocking, I guess, to me, when I first met him. CAVANAUGH: You expected him in a cabin somewhere in the east county. REITER: Exactly. And so one of the things he really made me aware of for the hikes were the urban opportunities that there were right downtown. And so during the week, after work, we would both put our shoes on and head out the door and do a 5, 6-mile urban hike virtually every night after work. So that was the most surprising thing to me, to find out the various things to do downtown. There's canyons downtown that you can walk to easily, there's a suspension bridge, there's a foot bridge over convince street. And all of those things were new to me. CAVANAUGH: There's also one that sounds very pretty, and it's in La Jolla. REITER: Are you referring to the one that starts in the village of La Jolla and goes up to mount Soledad? CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes. REITER: Interestingly enough, I just did that hike myself about three Sundays ago when I was thinking about Jerry sitting at home, and feeling a little bit sad. And I said to myself what would Jerry do? He'd take a hike. And so I actually did that hike, and it's a wonderful hike am because you start in the village of La Jolla, and you work your way up to these very narrow, windy little streets that most people don't know about. And you end up on mount Soledad. CAVANAUGH: I just want to remind people that we are talking about Jerry Schad's last book. Jerry Schad, of course, of Afoot and Afield series on KPBS TV, and his books of the same name. I'm speaking with his widow, Peg Reiter, and we're talking about 50 best short he cans in San Diego. And if you would like to join the conversation and tell us about where you like to hike or the hikes you've taken along with Jerry, so to speak, from his book Afoot and Afield series, give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. Now, you say that you've walked, what was it? 32 -- REITER: 32 of the 50 hikes in this book. CAVANAUGH: Did Jerry walk them all? REITER: Oh, yes, every hike that Jerry's ever written about he's walked. And that was so funny to me, people would ask him, did you really hike all these hikes in Afoot and Afield? And yeah, he did every hike. Otherwise, how could he write about it? CAVANAUGH: That's true. He in a sense is really creating these hikes isn't he? REITER: In many way, yes. Absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Now, the areas covered in the book cover most of what we would think of as urban San Diego; is that right? REITER: Yes. It starts? Oceanside and it works its way down the coast all the way to imperial beach. And then it -- we go inland about 20 miles inland. CAVANAUGH: And what kind of information can we find? You told us we can find the grades and the difficulty. But is there actually even GPS coordinators so that we don't get completely lost? REITER: Actually, there is. And his editor was kind enough to supply those. CAVANAUGH: Very good. Now you say Jerry had his favorites, Balboa Park, San Diego zoo. What about not in the central City of San Diego? There's one that's near the San Diego safari park, right? REITER: Yes, in fact, that -- well, there's one hike in the safari park. And that was just following the perimeter of the park, and it turns out to be about a three and a half mile hike within the safari park. CAVANAUGH: I see. Now, do you think this book is more for tourists or locals? REITER: It's for both, actually. This is a freight book for anyone who just lives here, and you want to have a little bit of exposure to different things to do in San Diego. It's great if you've -- if guests have come and visited us outside of San Diego, and they want to see something different in the city, it's a great opportunity with that. Or even visitors, let's say you're here for a convention and you have an extra day or even an afternoon, it's a great little book to pick up just for that purpose. CAVANAUGH: What did you and Jerry like most about hiking? Was it a sense of discovery? REITER: That was part of it. And quite honestly, I enjoyed spending every second with Jerry. So whatever we were doing was pleasurable. Of the thing I enjoyed about Jerry being outside and his editor, Susan Hanes, hit on this when she attended his memorial service and spoke about Jerry. Jerry put the Y in everything, the astronomy, the bot 18, the ecology, the geology, and the history. And so when I was out with Jerry doing these hike, he knew all of that information. He was a walking encyclopedia. And so it was very interesting to do these things with him because he opened my eyes to some things that I just wasn't seeing myself. CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. We are taking your calls, as I said, at 1-888-895-5727. Ring is on the line from Oceanside. Hi, Rick, welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon, guys. CAVANAUGH: Hi. NEW SPEAKER: So I just wanted to say, I got the book about thee years ago. And I kind of got exploring in San Diego County. It's a phenomenal resource. I think we started off with the Cuyamaca hikes and averaged 100 miles a year, trail mile, since we've gotten the book. And it just led from one thing to another. One hike, you know, you go back to the book and look and realize hey, we're going to go check out somewhere else next time, and it's just a really neat tool for discovery. CAVANAUGH: That's fabulous. Upon were you a hiker before Afoot and Afield? NEW SPEAKER: You know, I'm going to say no. We definitely knot out and enjoyed nature, but not -- we didn't have the resources or the information to feel comfortable. Like, let's say go out for a 5 or 6-mile hike. CAVANAUGH: Right, and this gave you the confidence and the actual information you needed to do that. NEW SPEAKER: Absolutely, absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Well, Rick, thank you so much for the call. I really appreciate it. You must hear that a lot, pat. REITER: I do, actually. Yes. For a lot of people, Jerry's writings have altered their life in a very positive way. It brought them into nature, it gave them the ability to do things with their children or families that perhaps they wouldn't have done. CAVANAUGH: And I would imagine that for a lot of people who just did not hike but saw the series on TV, that it opened their eyes to what exists in San Diego County. REITER: I think that's very true. And in fact the other night I had the pleasure of watching one of TV segments because Jerry had the tape, and it was a great way for me to get to see Jerry, if you will. CAVANAUGH: Now, this whole book was, as you mentioned, a laborer of love, getting it finished and working wither injury while he was so sick. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? REITER: I will, definitely. At the final phase of completing this book, Jerry was so very ill that he was bed-ridden. And by that, I mean he could not even sit up because it was too painful. So as long as he was lying flat, he was okay. He would get pages of information from the publisher to review. I would print it out on the computer. I would bring it into the bedroom with a clip board and lay in bed next to him with a red pen, and together we would go through his edits, and then through e-mail or phone calls, I would make arrangements with his editor, Susan, to go through discussions on the phone, and we would do conference calls, where I would have the phone on the bed next to a set on speaker phone, and the three of us would discuss the changes and edits that Jerry had made or suggestions that Susan had. The very last part of this, which is the page proof part, Jerry at that point was so very ill that a lot of that fell on my shoulders. I printed it out, went and laid in the bed next to him, and there were things he would try and communicate, but it wasn't making a lot of sense. So I knew enough about the book where I could actually go through the pain proofs and do the final review and touches on the editing working with Susan and complete it. Jerry never got to see the actual published book, but he did know that it was going to be published. And I assured him that I would make that happen and with his editor Susan, we made it happen. CAVANAUGH: Let me take a phone call, more people want to talk about what they've gotten from Jerry Schad's books. Rob is calling from San Diego. Hi rob. Welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. I'm actually a scout master, so a bunch of those hugs I have drug somewhere between 40 and 60 boys and done a bunch of them on my own. The book is really well written, we can pick hikes that are appropriate to the age group. Sometimes we're taking 12-year-olds and sometimes we're taking 18-year-olds, and you can imagine that's quite a spread. So I was just saying I was grateful for the books, and really enjoy them. CAVANAUGH: Well, rob, thank you very much for the call. As you were talking to us, peg, about the final days and working with Jerry on his last book, 50 best short hikes in San Diego, you and he were actually not married that long, were you? REITER: No. Less than six months. CAVANAUGH: How did you meet? REITER: My first date with Jerry was a hike at Balboa Park. And in fact, it was on trail 43, and that trail has been renamed the Jerry Schad memorial trail in commemoration of where we met, and as a way to honor him. CAVANAUGH: You two sound as if you shared a very special love story. REITER: Oh, we did. It was -- it actually was immediate, mutual love that we had for each other, practically the moment we met. And we were in it step with each other immediately. In fact, I mean, literally, I mean that, and figuratively. When I met him, my first thought was I finally met a man who can walk my pace. And I never slowed him down. We had just an amazing love affair. He was an absolutely beautiful man, and we shared everything with each other including writing this book. CAVANAUGH: It must be -- this whole experience for you, coming out here, and talking about it the books are it must be really rather bittersweet. Or is it somehow joyful? REITER: It's bittersweet and joyful. I'm just thrilled that, you know, Jerry's last effort at a book, it is published and it's out there for people, and it's his last written piece that there will be. His legacy will live on, obviously. It's bittersweet because I had such a short amount of time with this beautiful man, and we were so incredibly in love. And there was such harmony and joyfulness in everything we did. So yes, it's very bittersweet. CAVANAUGH: But it's out there, and it's probably going to change a few more people's lives too. REITER: I hope so. And it was interesting, at his memorial service, I had a few couples who came up to me and said that they're going to change the way that they treat each other, and they're going to make hiking part of what they do just because they could see that that was such a rich part of what we did. CAVANAUGH: Peg Reiter, thank you so much for speaking with us. We've been talking about Jerry Schad's last book, 50 best shorts hike in San Diego. Thank you so much. REITER: Thank you Maureen.

We'll have an interview with Peg Reiter, Jerry Schad's widow, on the show Wednesday.

Jerry Schad introduced an untold number of people to the breathtaking variety of trails and landscapes in San Diego. He wrote about them and he showed them to us in his Afoot and Afield series on KPBS TV.

In September, San Diego said goodbye to the man who loved the natural beauty of the area - and who couldn't resist enjoying it on walks around the county.

When he died of cancer earlier this year, Schad had just published what would be his final book about hiking, "50 Best Short Hikes - San Diego." We'll speak with his widow, Peg Reiter, about his legacy.