Paso Picacho Campground
The California Department of Fish and Game estimates 4000 to 6000 mountain lions roam California, with at least 150 of them ringing San Diego in the Cuyamacas, Lagunas, Palomar, Volcan Mountain area -- even in the desert fringes of Anza-Borrego, if the bighorn sheep are on the move. But mostly the lion goes where the deer go. He weighs from 60 to 120 pounds and needs to eat a deer a week (or the equivalent). Biologist Larry Sitton, a 30-year lion-tracking veteran, says if he had to choose a spot to see one, it'd be Paso Picacho campground on Highway 79. "But take care," warns Sitton. "There have been more close calls in the Cuyamacas than any place in the state." A bird-watcher was killed near Cuyamaca Peak in 1994, so don't go alone. Carry a big stick. Don't speak softly. "Yell and scream, if you meet one," says Fish and Game warden Zeke Awbrey. "Stand your ground. Look big. Throw rocks." If you have dogs, let go of the leash. Better the lion eat them than you. Call Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, (760) 765-0755, for more information.