Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Horseback riding

Cougar study: Facing down predators not the safest measure, after all


How would you respond if you encountered a mountain lion? That's a question I ponder whenever I venture alone into the wilderness.

Traditional wisdom, preached time and again by so-called animal experts and the California Department of Fish and Game, is to stand your ground, make yourself appear larger, yell and throw rocks or other items at the predator. That's because if you run, you might prompt the beast to attack.

Now there's a group of scientists who challenge traditional wisdom. A UC Davis study suggests a polar opposite survival strategy is the safest: Run like the dickens.

"Even though we found evidence that pumas will indeed chase, and capture, people who run, we also found that people who stand still are possibly more endangered,"  said Richard Coss, a UC Davis psychology professor and the study's lead author.

"Immobility may be interpreted by the mountain lion as a sign that you are vulnerable prey, either because you are unaware of its presence, or because you are disabled and not capable of escaping."

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Rosarito Beach, despite drug war, said to retain its small-town charm


Once upon a time, tourist destinations throughout Mexico, including beleaguered Rosarito Beach, were cherished for their small-town charm and friendliness.

Nowadays, as the narco war rages on, all you hear about is danger, violence, murder and corruption.

But there are some who maintain that Mexico has not lost its endearing qualities, despite a steady flow of media reports about the violence among cartel thugs and police.

Laura Wong, editor of the Baja Times and lifelong resident of Rosarito Beach, implied in an editorial that her town remains somewhat like the fictitious town of Mayberry.

"Life is simple, inexpensive and relaxed," Wong wrote, explaining that this quality is what led hundreds of U.S. residents to relocate, and that these ex-pats now "live in a matter of course with the local population."

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Tijuana drug violence erupts anew, but the act is getting old

A federal police convoy moves through the streets of Tijuana.

Outposts has and remains supportive of Rosarito Beach as a reasonably safe place to surf, fish, ride horses or ATVs and party.

But this blog will not ignore bad news occurring in the vicinity of the northern Baja California tourist destination, and that includes Tijuana, where a far more volatile situation exists and where a gruesome discovery was made Tuesday.

Mexican police found six bodies, including three whose heads, arms and legs had been cut off, in Tijuana and nearby Tecate. Police also found a note that described the victims as snitches.

As usual, the bloodshed was related to an unceasing struggle between cartel factions to gain control of the flow of drugs into the United States. (See The Times' in-depth reporting on this at Mexico Under Siege.)

This largely involves Fernando Sanchez Arellano, leader of a faction founded by his uncles -- the infamous Arellano Felix brothers -- and top enforcer Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental.

These two ought to wage a duel, and to the winner go the spoils, rather than participate in a tit-for-tat murder-and-dismemberment spree that seems only to thin populations within their ranks.

Perhaps if there were only one power in control of the Tijuana cartel, as was the case when the "brothers" were in charge, the level of violence throughout northern Baja would sharply diminish.

It's a sad thing to hope for, but so much violence and bloodshed is killing tourism and the livelihoods of thousands of innocent victims. It's all really sad.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: A federal police convoy moves through the streets of Tijuana. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Rosarito Beach, drug war notwithstanding, to be focus of college project

Part of Rosarito Beach and its pier pilings are mirrored in the wet sand at low tide.

Here's an interesting assignment for a college student: Portraying Rosarito Beach for what it is, rather than what some have portrayed it to resemble in recent months.

According to some media reports and glaring headlines, tourists are left to believe the northern Baja California tourist town is a once-popular destination overrun by drug lords, rife with violence, and unsafe even for casual tourists.

Interestingly, a public affairs class from Boston's Emerson College is focusing on just such an assignment. Its task: conveying an accurate picture of the northern Baja California tourist city "and dispelling misleading U.S. media reports."

It's part of a "RediscoveRosarito" project led by Emerson College professor Gregory Payne, whose family owns a home in Rosarito Beach. (Hopefully Payne's students can remain objective.)

"One of our major objectives it to ensure that the stories and narratives are
backed with facts and not sensationalized solely to get the attention of the public," Payne said.

Of course, none of those sensational reports appeared on the Outposts blog. I happen to enjoy RB, despite the unfortunate warring between drug gangs away from tourist zones, and my only complaint remains the long wait to cross the border back into the United States.

If RB could develop a faster exit lane for tourists -- a plan the city reportedly is close to finalizing -- it'll foster more needed visitation.

Good luck, college students!

--Pete Thomas

Photo: Part of Rosarito Beach and its pier pilings are mirrored in the wet sand at low tide. Credit: Pete Thomas/Los Angeles Times

Rosarito Beach mayor, in wake of drug-related violence, makes case for tourism


Rosarito Beach has long been known for its surfing, fishing, ATV and horseback riding; its many curbside restaurants and bars—and their free-flowing music, tequila and beer.

More often these days, though, the once flourishing tourist destination, 20 minutes from the U.S. border, is associated with violent fighting between drug factions.

Though the savagery has not been directed at tourists, ex-pat residents or ordinary Mexican citizens, the perceived danger of being shot has caused many to strike Rosarito Beach from their list of vacation spots.

To be sure, Rosarito Beach has been a hot topic on the Outposts comment board, so today I’ll revisit the issue merely by sharing some of what the town's mayor, Hugo Torres, told me during lunch last week at the Rosarito Beach Hotel:

--Drug-related violence in northern Baja California began to escalate after the arrest in 2006 of the leader of the Arellano-Felix cartel. Since then, there has been fragmented leadership and relentless warring between factions wanting to dominate the flow of drugs into the United States.

Torres said, "I think we’re seeing the end of this fighting among themselves because I don’t think there are very many left of these head men. In the meantime, we're trying to apprehend the killers."

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For Rosarito Beach, a 'surefire way' to ease troubles amid drug war?


Debate about safety, corruption, perceived racism and many other side topics filled the comment board in the days after I posted an item titled "Rosarito Beach begins issuing bilingual citations."

Some comments carried an angry tone and many had nothing to do with Rosarito Beach, a once-popular haven trying to survive a tourism scare caused by drug gangs involved in an unrelenting, murderous war among themselves.

At least one person stated that demand for drugs in the United States is fueling the narco war, and that most of the the high-powered weapons used by the gang enforcers come from the U.S.

True on both counts.

(Rosarito Beach, which is located just south of Tijuana and had until recently been immensely popular among surfers, fishermen and general Baja California travelers, seems merely a victim of its proximity to a main point of drug entry.)

At least one person commented that if the drugs -- mostly cocaine and marijuana -- were legalized, the cartels would be out of business and the violence would end. Plus, the drugs could be taxed and generate revenue.

Sadly, this is true. But never in our lifetimes will cocaine be legalized.

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A Christmas wish list, checked twice


A Christmas wish, brief version, minus materialistic desires:

-- May this latest storm further blanket our mountains, for the benefit of skiers, snowboarders and resort operators. More important, may it saturate a landscape that remains so parched that creeks remain dry and waterfalls without cascades. We need lots  of precipitation in 2008-09.

-- May the economy improve sooner rather than later. This would be our Christmas miracle. Being forced from a home onto the street is the worst possible kind of outdoors experience, and it should not be happening.

-- May children receive more gifts that introduce them to our spectacular natural resources--surfboards, skis, snowboards, hiking boots, binoculars, tents, fishing poles, etc.--and fewer computerized gadgets that contribute to obesity and create a disconnect between kids and their parents.

-- May more parents get out of the house with their children, to a lake shore, a state park, aboard a whale-watch boat or wherever there is sky and a vast surrounding. Most outdoor activities are inexpensive. Generate fond memories. Instill an appreciation for open spaces and critters that inhabit them. You won't regret it.

-- May Japan and other whaling nations stop the slaughter. Most if not all species of whales were on the brink of extinction at one point in our recent history. Haven't they been through enough?

-- May people lose the taste for shark fin soup. Unlike whales, sharks are being driven methodically to extinction because of the demand for this so-called delicacy and the brutal practice of "finning" live sharks. This is perilous for sharks and the environment. Is a bowl of soup worth all this?

-- May more people go green. May we see fewer Hummers and Suburbans and more hybrids. May the warming trend reverse (another miracle, please) and may the polar bears somehow survive the shrinking of their icy realm. People are trying, and that's a positive first step.

-- May at least some of your Chritmas wishes come true. Happy holidays, everyone. May better times prevail in 2009!

-- Pete Thomas

Photo credit: Greg Zook, Big Bear Lake Resort Assn.

Hunewill Guest Ranch not just for dudes apparently

If you're feeling a little stifled by city living and looking for "an authentic cowboy experience," you may want to check out Times writer Hugo Martin's review of the Hunewill Guest Ranch, a 4,500-acre working ranch in Bridgeport near Yosemite, about 360 miles north of L.A. Yes, it's a guest ranch, so all you dudettes should equally feel free to check it out.


Here's a little taste, in case you missed the full article over the holiday weekend:

The heifers are acting surly, but my horse pushes forward. My young crew of 10 or so cowpunchers encircles about 30 head of cattle on a wide pasture in the shadow of a sawtooth mountain just west of Bridgeport. Our horses slowly lead the cattle toward a gate at the far end of the field.

"Move on," I yell, as I nudge my mount with the heel of my boot. "Heeeaaah!"

For a moment, I think I'm a cow-herding, range-riding, genuine cowboy.

Whom am I fooling? I'm just a part-time pretender, one of several dozen greenhorns playing cowboy at a dude ranch only a few miles from a 24-hour convenience store, a corner deli and a big-box retailer. I have donned a pair of old boots and mounted a swayback horse because I think I have the grit and guts to cut it as a cowboy.

It's a good read though I have to agree that Hugo's probably not fooling any real cowboys. They don't use the word "whom."

Make sure to check out the photo gallery and the video embedded on the article page and after the jump.

--Liam Gowing

Photo by Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.