Under the Hawaiian Sea

by: Kaitlyn Graf

In the midst of this frigid Montana winter, I find myself reminiscing on a warm trip in paradise. This video includes shots from Maui, Hawaii from June 2017.

I truly believe paradise isn’t just a place but a feeling.

I hope you enjoy!

The Oregon I Bet You STILL Don’t Know

The Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know.

As you can see, when I say eastern Oregon I do not mean Bend as some travel bloggers do. I mean further east as in closer to Idaho than the coast. Not many people think of beautiful conifer forests, waterfalls, hot springs, fossil beds, historic sites, roaming elk herds, nor majestic mountain lakes when they think about true eastern Oregon. In fact, I would say not many people outside of the few who live here spend much time thinking about eastern Oregon if they think about it at all. This seems to be particularly true when people are making their travel plans, and that is perhaps the best part about it out here. If you dare to go against the grain (and do a little bit of roughin’ it) there are numerous trails with brilliant views, and historic structures of some form awaiting your discovery year-round with little to no crowds. Read on to learn more about the eastern Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know!

Did you know about the National Forests and other public lands in eastern Oregon with miles of all types of trails?

Hike, bike, backpack, ride a horse or ATV, maybe even Nordic ski! It’s all here depending on the time of year.

A pristine stream during a summer hike in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon

A wintry, Nordic ski trail that can be found in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon

It’s a short, uphill hike to this breathtaking mountain lake found in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon

On a trail of the Winom-Frazier OHV Complex in the Umatilla National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of RiderPlanet USA.

If you prefer to have a more relaxing visit you can simply camp along a lake, river, or visit a hot spring.

Ritter Hot Springs, Oregon – Photo courtesy of  Zach Urness/ Statesman Journal.

Did you know that eastern Oregon also has one of the most renowned fossil beds in the USA?

They have discovered such unusual fossils like those of ancient, small mammals.

A marsh “rhino” tusk fossil which can be viewed at the Thomas Condon Palentology Center of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon – Photo courtesy of NPS

Did you know eastern Oregon had its own gold rush?

Asian immigrants were participants, and there are even a few active claims still. 

Kam Wah Chung exterior
This strange building holds some incredible wonders. If you are interested in old Chinese medicine and the influence immigrants had on the gold rush you should consider taking the time to visit the historic Kam Wah Chung in John Day, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks.

Sumpter Valley Dredge
Gold mining was much more than sifting through pans by hand. To learn more visit the Sumpter Valley Dredge in Sumpter Valley, Oregon! – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks

Did you know eastern Oregon has fire look outs that are still in operation during the summer?

Their often rugged roads end in some of the best views perfect for romantic sunrises or sunsets and dark sky photography. You can probably stop by and have a chat with the look out too!

A starry night at Dixie look out of the Malheur National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Matt Franklin

Did you know. . .I purposely did not give you a lot of specific details?

What good is an adventure if you don’t get to put in the effort to discover it for yourself?! I myself have been disappointed by going to places travel bloggers have already given nearly every detail away about. Putting in the time and effort to find these and other hidden gems out here is one of the reasons I fell so in love with it that I now live out here.  I have a continual sense of excitement about the next beautiful creek or historic remnants I may find on my next outing.  I do not want to potentially ruin that sense of excitement for you. Come out and discover it further for yourself! I will give you a hint though: having a vehicle, particularly one for rough dirt roads, is a good idea.

I hope you enjoy whatever your next adventure is! I must admit I hope it is out here.

Why You Should Switch to a Toxin-Free Lifestyle.

Look under your kitchen sink, pick out any random cleaning product that you have purchased and use, turn it around and look at the label, I would be safe to bet that you couldn’t tell me what more than maybe three of the ingredients in that bottle are. That’s because companies don’t want you to know exactly what is in their products because some of them might scare you! Environmental experts say that the average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals that we routinely expose our bodies to, from phthalates in synthetic fragrances to noxious fumes in oven cleaners that we willingly heat up! These common ingredients in our household products have been linked to some seriously scary things like asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity and the list goes on and on! I know some of you are thinking, if this what such a outright cause of these diseases why hasn’t something been done about it and why are they still being made and used without any second thought? The answer to that question makes me sad, scared and angry all at the same time, manufactures continue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients  aren’t likely to be a problem but you can’t tell me that you use a product once and throw it away and if you have found something that you think works well you go buy more right!? Well that’s the issue, the routine exposure to these chemicals and in combinations of other products you may use with it haven’t been studied and it’s impossible to accurately gage the risks that you are exposing your body to. There is no federal regulations of chemicals in household products nor are they required to meet any safety standards, supply in testing data or notifications in order to bring the product to the market. This is why you see many household products, like Roundup and Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, come out years later as products that have been substantially linked to cancer.

Ok so now that I have officially freaked you out, let me help you. We are all keepers of our respective households, you control what comes in and what leaves. Now is a better time than ever to ditch and switch your toxic everyday products for mirroring ones that give you the same result without harming your body. Most of the time the excuse people have is that it’s too expensive and you already have the products so you may as well use them and I totally get where you’re coming from because I have been in your shoes but it’s also really not that expensive, and many of the products/cleaners you can make for yourself with other products you already have around your house. I have made the personal choice to add essential oils to my lifestyle because they have so many great benefits that are natural and do not harm my body. My personal choice in an essential oil company is Young Living because I like the platform they stand on and they are 100% upfront and honest with what exactly is in all of their products but not only that, they tell you where each and every product is derived from. This give me a peace of mind knowing that I know exactly what I am breathing in or putting into my body and allows me the freedom to make cleaner choices within my household. I haven’t even mentioned their cleaner but you know how cleaners tell you to induce vomiting or call poison control in chemical is ingested, well Young Living Thieves Cleaner just says to dilute with water. Ummm what?! How crazy is it to know there is a cleaning product out there that is so toxin free that even if it does get ingested all you have to do is drink water to dilute it because your body doesn’t need that much essential oil!

Change is possible people and the time is now to rethink what is under that kitchen sink! You are the keeper of your own home and only you have the power to make a difference in what products come in that door!

I am a Human Being! Tips for successful petition signature gathering.

Getting your candidate on the ballot is no easy task. Here are tips for successful petition signature gathering in Missoula, Montana.

Before presidential candidates can get your vote, they have to get on the ballot in your state. Collecting signatures so a candidate can qualify to be on a ballot is one of the most important steps in any campaign.

For the presidential primary ballot in Montana, candidates need to submit a declaration and oath. They must also submit verified signatures of at least 500 registered voters. Most campaigns aim to collect thousands more signatures than necessary for bragging rights. Also, lots of signatures are invalidated for a number of reasons (the County Clerk office can’t read the handwriting, the address isn’t sufficient, the person who signed isn’t actually registered to vote).

I volunteered to gather signatures for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. The campaign set the goal of collecting 1,000 signatures in Montana. Here’s my tips and tricks for successful signature gathering efforts.

1: Find your local campaign staffer to help you get plugged in.

This is pretty easy. It’s no secret that if you indicate any kind of interest in helping a political campaign, that they’ll follow you around like a lost puppy.

For Warren’s campaign, I went to her website, made a $2 donation, and received an endless series of texts with all the different ways I could get involved. I responded “Yes” to one asking me to collect signatures for a 3 hour shift on a Sunday morning.

2: Rope in a friend.

Learn from the campaign that just recruited you. Shout from the mountain top that you’re going to be volunteering and ask everyone you know if they want to join you. Ask your friends one at a time, directly. A general “Anyone want to join me?” is going to be met with crickets. Once you ask your friend directly, look at them with expectant excitement until you get a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

3: Show up!

We all sign up for things with the best of intentions. Then Sunday morning rolls around and your partner is cuddled up on the couch watching episode after episode of “Love is Blind” and you have a sense of dread about the 35-degree weather and predicted snowfall. Get over it! This is why you roped in a friend and why you planned a reward (see tip #6).

Get yourself to the quick volunteer orientation. Listen to the directions, drink some coffee, and get your clipboard.

4: Find a good place to stand.

They’ll likely have a few designated places to send you. You can stand anywhere on a public sidewalk. Note that a parking lot outside of a business (like a grocery store parking lot) is private property. You have to get permission from the manager to collect signatures in that case.

Scope out your location and find a place where you can be in people’s walking paths without blocking their access to a business. My friend and I chose a popular market that is known in town for it’s delicious breakfast burritos (see tip #6).

As we expected, there was a steady stream of people coming in and out of the market. We positioned ourselves outside, about 20 feet from the door on either side, and didn’t give people much of a chance to escape us.

5: Be ready for whatever comes your way.

I’ve gathered signatures for ballot initiatives before. I’ve registered people to vote. I’ve made get out the vote phone calls. If you’re an introvert, like me, this might not be for you. But if you’re an introvert who wants to save democracy, you figure out how to prepare yourself and take care of yourself (see tip #6).

During my signature gathering shift I use these strategies:

    • Smile and make eye contact (or try), hold your head up, and appear approachable. If there’s lots of space on the sidewalk, take one or two steps toward the approaching person (not too close!).
    • Ask directly “Are you registered to vote in Montana?”
    • Follow up with “Will you sign this petition to help get Elizabeth Warren on the primary ballot in MT?”

Be prepared for:

    • “Yes?” Seriously, so many people are happy to participate in the process and are just waiting to feel welcomed into the political process. You are there to make their dreams come true! Show your genuine excitement about their participation. One person I asked said that she’d never voted before, but she was going to this year because it felt too important. While voting might feel like a no-brainer to you (especially if you’re volunteering for a campaign at this level), remember that almost 50% of people don’e vote. Don’t shame people for not having been involved before- celebrate that they’re going to be involved this time.
    • “No. Not today.” Smile, because you’re an ambassador for your candidate. But really, if not today, when, Karen? Let them go get their burrito and ask the next person.
    • “I haven’t done my research. So I don’t feel comfortable signing.” Sometimes I can’t help but roll my eyes at this. But then I check myself and realize I live in a news saturated bubble and perhaps people do want to feel more informed- can I blame them?
    • “I’m voting for someone else.” That’s fine! I usually say- “GREAT! Don’t you want that person to win in a fair fight? Getting someone else on the ballot doesn’t obligate you to vote for them and it makes the democratic process as robust as it’s supposed to be.”
    • “PSHSHSHST.” It’s easy for people to be rude to us when we’re holding a clipboard and standing between them and their breakfast burrito. Don’t go after these people to convince them, but don’t let them get you down either! You can often hear me saying in a very calm and normal voice “I’m a HUMAN BEING,” when I get a response like this. If people are downright rude, it’s ok to remind them they can be better than that.
6: Reward yourself!

You did hard work! You saved democracy! You deserve a reward. Make sure your petitions are in a safe, dry place. And enjoy your breakfast burrito (or other treat).

Best Burritos in Missoula

There are quite a few Mexican restaurants in Missoula, but which one has the best burritos in town? I am basing the choosing of the restaurants on that they must be local restaurants, I have burritos, they are not fast-food or a national chain, and I have been there. As of early February, 2020, there are 4 restaurants in Missoula that fall into all of those categories, so in no particular order they are: El Diablo, Fiesta En Jalisco, Taco Sano, and Taco Del Sol. All of these will be referenced as to the last time I was there and what I ordered. So, let’s just go in order as how they are above.


El Diablo – Last time I was there was about a month ago and I had ordered a carne asada burrito with white rice, black beans, hot salsa, lettuce, and some other vegetables on it. I remember the burrito its self being really good with being about 10 inches in size but the only caveat I had with it was the tortilla the burrito was wrapped in. The tortilla was warm but not necessarily cooked as in it was chewy and it really took away from the rest of the burrito. Overall it was really good but when the shell it’s surrounded in is bad, it really takes away from it all, 6/10.


Fiesta En Jalisco – I went to the restaurant on reserve around December and I remember getting there thinking it would be another Montana “Mexican” restaurant but in reality, it was far better than that. I had ordered an al pastor burrito (as finding those in Missoula are a rare find) and when it arrived, I was very excited. The burrito was the size of the plate length wise and served with rice and beans on the side (which were excellent and traditional in the sense that the beans were made with lard) but the burrito its self was very tasty and reminded me of a burrito you would get from a taco truck parked outside of Dodger Stadium. Definitely one of the better spots in Missoula for sure 9/10.


Taco Sano – Taco Sano is in a cool spot being on the hip strip across the way from the Roxy movie theater. I only bring up the location for Taco Sano because it is one of the big reasons as to why I go there so often in comparison to the other restaurants however, that’s all it really has going for it. The burrito I got when I was last there was their carnitas burrito with white rice, black beans, lettuce, jalapeños, onion, cheese, with sour cream, and their hot sauce ‘Glacial Melt’. They also serve tater tots which is cool and odd for a Mexican restaurant, but non-the-less the burrito while the first few bites were filled with wonderful carnitas, lettuce and beans the rest of the burrito was painful. The rice was cooked well but must have been older and left out (as in not heated properly) because when I made my way deeper into the burrito every bite made me scared as to whether or not I’d crack a tooth on the rice or not. So, for this reason they get a 4/10, because it was still a solid burrito.


Taco Del Sol – Taco Del Sol is another local spot that evoked another memory of being back home one that reminded me of being on the beach in San Diego. I walked into the store and there were surf boards hanging all over the ceiling and walls, the atmosphere in there was that of a bonfire in Moonlight bay, a fun environment with a chill vibe. This time however, instead of getting a custom burrito I got their shrimp burrito which had: shrimp, black beans, salsa, shredded cabbage, white sauce, their hottest salsa and jalapenos. I got it looking forward to a shrimp burrito because they’re like lizards, often found in the warmer regions and harder to find the more north you go. This shrimp burrito was by the far best I had with no complaints other than it being a longer drive across town than it should be, 8.5/10

In conclusion, my rankings for best burrito in Missoula goes as follows:

4. Taco Sano, 3. El Diablo, 2. Taco Del Sol, 1. Fiesta En Jalisco.


Now this is just my opinion and if you want to see which one truly is better, well there’s no better way than to try them out for yourself.

Must Do’s in Missoula

Float into downtown Missoula:Picture

Put in at Sha-ron Put-in, get out at Brennan’s Wave to be right in the middle of downtown.


Grab an Icecream from the Big Dipper: 



Visit our local Mountains:

Hike the “M” during the summer and ski Snowbowl in the winter.


The M