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!

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.

5 Netflix Series You Have to Watch

The world of television and media has been completely reshaped by the likes of streaming services like Netflix. This is mainly because of the streaming and binge worthy capabilities of some of its series. Here are 5 series on Netflix that I believe no one who watches Netflix should not having in their viewing archives. (Not in order of favorites)

1. The Witcher

This series follows the life of Geralt, who is a bounty collecting monster hunter. As a mutated human like witcher, he is met with great distrust from the rest of the human population as he continues to save that same group from ravenous monsters.

2. Narcos

Narcos is a look back at the rise of the cocaine and drug wars that gripped the US and Colombia under the control of Pablo Escobar. As Escobar becomes a billionaire and king of the trade, it also shows the strenuous effort that law enforcement and the government had to make in order to track him down.

3. Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders is a series about the urban gangster family the Peaky Blinders which is set in Birmingham, England after WW1. This follows the Blinders never ending turf war against other criminal organizations in a very shellshocked post war Britain.

4. Explained

This series goes into a broad range of relevant topics in todays world. It covers things from Pandemics and cryptocurrency to how the brain works. If you like to learn things about stuff you wont typically learn everyday this is a great pick.

5. Black Mirror

Black Mirror is probably one of my favorite shows of all time. It is a collection of different stories that shed light on the potentially twisted and unknown powers of modern technology. This show’s perspective on how there can be heavy consequences in innovation gives an eerie look into what the future could hold.

Private Prisons Are Unethical, Dysfunctional, and Should Be Closed

Private Prisons Should Be Closed

When a father went to visit his son in a private prison, the staff told him his son was not there and that they didn’t know where he was.  After 6-weeks, he found his son in a local hospital.  His son had suffered severe brain damage and now has the mental capacity of a two-year old.  He was injured in a brawl that investigators found was instigated by a guard who was running a prison fight club.

If you were incarcerated, wouldn’t you want the state to ensure your safety and that your rights would not be abused?  As taxpayers, you should be concerned about how your money is used to fund these unsafe and inefficient private prisons. From the research I have gathered, it is apparent that the use of private prisons has too many trade-offs to be considered viable due to their widespread issues of cost effectiveness and mistreatment of prisoners. Throughout this post, I’ll explain the advantages of ending the use of private prisons, which are: an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding.

In the U.S., not all prisons are run by the government.  Some are operated by private companies that the government pays to house prisoners.  The three largest companies are the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation.  Operations of these prisons are handled by these companies instead of the government.

The first advantage is that public prisons would focus more on rehabilitation than private prisons because the government does not benefit from repeat offenders. Private prisons claim they can lower recidivism (reoffending) rates with state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs. However, according to Anita Mukherjee’s August 10, 2016, study in the Social Science Research Network, prisoners in Mississippi’s private prisons recidivated no less than public prisoners despite serving more time (Mukherjee 2016). Brian Kincade cites a study of recidivism rates in private prisons in Oklahoma in his March 23, 2016, article in Smart Asset that found private prisoners recidivated 4% more than their public counterparts (Kincade 2016). State of the art rehabilitation programs would cut into corporate profits and would interfere with the steady flow of incarcerations private prisons depend on to make a profit. Public prisons do not operate to make a profit.  They have more of an incentive to properly rehabilitate prisoners to lower crime rates.  Because with lower crime rates, the government saves money and society is overall safer. Now that I’ve discussed why rehabilitation will be focused on more, I’ll explain how prisoners will be properly treated.

The second advantage is that states would directly oversee the treatment of prisoners and ensure their rights are not abused. One example of prisoner mistreatment is the conditions that led to the recent closure of a GEO Group prison in Mississippi.  The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about the conditions on their website on September 15th, 2016 (SPLC 2016). Department of Justice investigators found frequent sexual abuse, widespread violence, and that the prison was controlled by gangs with help from the guards. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found the state was violating the rights of prisoners by not protecting them from the gang control and stated “the evidence…paints a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger of the inmates and staff”. These are not isolated incidents and issues like these are widespread in private prisons across the country. The federal government itself has stated that private prisons run less safely than public prisons.  An August 18th, 2016, article by Gwendolyn Wu published by TakePart cites that Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that private prisons “compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities…they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources…[and] they do not maintain the same level of safety or security.” (Wu 2016). States can provide better quality treatment to prisoners and can directly oversee that the rights that they guarantee the prisoners are not abused. Now that I’ve discussed how states will directly oversee that prisoners are treated properly; I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons will not increase costs.

The third advantage is that states would not be taking on new (long-term) costs and in many cases, states would save money by ending their use of private prisons. On paper, many private prisons seem to have a lower per diem rate (per prisoner cost) than public prisons, however they aren’t paying for the same things that states must. In his 2016 article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Alex Friedmann lists the many ways private prisons offset their costs to the public in order for their per diem rate to appear lower than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). They tend to only house low-security healthy adult males, the least expensive type of prisoner to house.  This leaves the most expensive prisoners for the states to house. States still have to pay for medical care for prisoners in private prisons. Wages paid to prisoners in private prisons are reimbursed by the state.  In one year, the Corrections Corporation of America saved $30-66 million and the GEO Group saved $33-72 million from not paying prisoner wages. After adjusting for these factors and others, Alex Friedmann wrote in the same article that in many states private prisons were more expensive than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). States would be paying just as much if not less to house prisoners in their own prisons.  The only new cost they would be taking on would be the short-term cost of buying the private prisons that aren’t already being rented from the states. Now that I’ve explained how costs of prison operation will not increase, I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons would force officials to rethink harsh laws that have contributed to overcrowding.

The fourth advantage is that by ending the use of private prisons, companies would no longer lobby for harsh punishments, forcing officials to reevaluate tough on crime laws to deal with overcrowding. Harsh penalties for non-violent offenders are the major causes of overcrowding. Michael Cohen cites many cases of private prison companies spending millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying in his April 28th, 2015, article published in the Washington Post (Cohen 2016). The GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have paid over $10 million in campaign contributions and over $25 million for lobbying. They lobby for laws that will punish non-violent offenders harshly and contribute to candidates who will vote for these laws and who will give the companies lucrative contracts. By eliminating the use of private prisons, government officials would no longer receive monetary incentives to harshly punish petty offenders.  Ending the use of private prisons to combat overcrowding would force lawmakers to reevaluate these severe penalties.

I’ve told you about four advantages of ending the use of private prisons; an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding. With these advantages in mind, states should end their use of private prisons. The young man I mentioned at the beginning of my speech could’ve had a brighter future if he was housed in a public prison.  Instead of suffering debilitating brain damage, he would’ve been properly rehabilitated, and after serving his time he could’ve returned to the general public and contributed to society.

 

References

Barbaric private prison in Mississippi closes its doors after SPLC lawsuit. (2016, September 15). The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org

Cohen, Michael. (2015, April 28). How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com

Friedmann, Alex. (2016). Apples-to-fish: Public and private prison cost comparisons. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 42(2), 502-568. Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu

Gilna, Derek. (2016, September 6). GEO Texas immigration facility hit for substandard health care and understaffing. Prison Legal News. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org

Kincade, Brian. (2016, March 23). The economics of the American prison system. Smart Asset. Retrieved from https://smartasset.com

Mukherjee, Anita. (2016, August 10). Impacts of private prison contracting on inmate time served and recidivism. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com

Wu, Gwendolyn. (2016, August 18). Activists to feds: closing private prisons won’t help most inmates. TakePart. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/