Afoot and Afield With David Money Harris

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Harvey Mudd College Professor of Engineering David Money Harris recalls fondly exploring the Sierra Nevada Desolation Wilderness with his father. Even at two years old, Harris would ride along in a pack on his father’s back through the wilderness, surrounded by dense forest, foaming waterways and staggering peaks.

Years later, the engineering professor is not only still an avid hiker, sharing his love for the wilderness with his own three children, he’s also a widely published author of guidebooks on the subject. His most recent is a new edition of Afoot and Afield: Orange County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide (Wilderness Press), co-authored with Jerry Schad, the late Southern California wilderness expert.

Featuring new hikes and updated comprehensive trail information, this edition expands on Schad’s original Afoot and Afield: Orange County. Every trip is within driving distance of major Southern California cities and was re-hiked by Harris for the new edition—often with his family in tow. More than 100 day hikes, ranging from ambles for beginners to difficult all-day treks, take you from the heights of the Santa Ana Mountains to the breaking waves of the Laguna Coast cliffs. Other regions covered include the Chino Hills, Newport Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve and more.

Much of the book’s material is also available through eTrails, an app of Harris’ invention that lets hikers use their mobile device to read about points of interest, water sources, campsites, roads, points of natural and human history, flora, fauna and more. (Harris credits Schad for his meticulous documentation of the region’s trails, flora and fauna.)

The book doesn’t necessarily aim to recruit brand new hikers—though Harris says that would be nice—but rather provide accurate, updated information for amateurs or up. “It’s more factual than persuasive,” he says. “That’s the thing I consider most important in a guidebook. For example, driving directions need to be unambiguous.” He jokes that it’s “not a very high bar” but notes that accessibility can be a hurdle for those who might enjoy hiking certain regions but are unfamiliar with them.

A former Boy Scout and Sierra Club trip leader, Harris is also concerned with conservation. “We only protect these special places when a larger body of the public knows about them,” says Harris. By bringing attention to lesser-known wilderness areas, he believes he’s helping to build a constituency for conservation.

Harris self-published his first hiking guidebook, Supersize It: Big Hikes in Southern California, while on sabbatical in 2006. On a lark, he sent a copy to Wilderness Press. The publishing company’s main guidebook author at the time, John Robinson, was near retirement, opening the door for Harris to work on a number of Wilderness Press guidebooks, including San Bernardino Mountain Trails (with Robinson) and Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire (with his wife, Jennifer Money Harris), among others.

The Harvey S. Mudd Professor of Engineering Design, Harris has also authored numerous engineering textbooks, including Digital Design and Computer Architecture, due out in spring 2015.