Flat Creek Inn

Category: Travel

5 Tips For Maximizing Vacation Time

Here at Flat Creek Inn, we’re all about slowing down, taking the scenic routes, and enjoying the mountain air. But slowing down can be difficult when you want to pack in an entire bucket list’s worth of sights into those last few vacation days. Here are five tips for maximizing your travel time in 2024.maximizing vacation time

Travel around weekends or holidays

There’s been a lot of buzz (mostly negative) around this year’s travel “hack,” scheduling your PTO around paid holidays. While this specific tip won’t work for everyone, planning trips around holidays can get some extra mileage out of limited vacation time. Taking an additional two days off around a three-day weekend turns into almost a week, plenty of time to visit your closest national park or do a deep dive into some US city you’ve always wanted to visit.

Speaking of weekends, planning weekend getaways requires little to no vacation time but provides a whole host of health benefits. From stress reduction, better sleep, increased creativity, and strengthened relationships, a quick getaway can be the ticket to a happier you.

Travel during the shoulder season

As mentioned in a previous post, the shoulder season is our managing owner Korinne’s favorite time to visit Jackson. The shoulder season, generally defined as March through April and September through October, is the period between peak seasons when prices are cheaper and crowds can be lighter. The weather is generally decent enough and the cost savings can be put towards your next trip!

Be flexible!

When planning a vacation, people generally pick a location and dates and then start looking for flights. But, hear me out—what if you didn’t? What if you let ticket prices determine your next vacation? When planning a trip to France for some relatives, we were able to find significantly cheaper flights by keeping dates and exact destinations flexible. Instead of flying directly into France, we found flights into Italy and they got to enjoy a stunning drive along the Mediterranean. While it can be a little scary to give up vacation control to the whims of flight prices, even keeping your dates flexible by a day or two can get you a much cheaper flight and maximize your vacation time and budget.

Plan a staycation

While you won’t see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or the Burj Khalifa (or maybe you will, depending on where you live), exploring your own city or state can be just as exciting and fulfilling and can be done in a shorter time frame. Staying home? Explore local or quirky museums, go to a concert, hit the trails on a hike or bike, see a movie, take a cooking class, visit a spa, spend a night in a hotel downtown, or any of these ideas. Most importantly, relax and recharge without wandering far from home. 

Stay healthy

While many companies have separate vacation and sick days, staying healthy can help you save your vacation days for actual vacations. Eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t push yourself so hard that you run yourself into the ground in your rush to see and do more. 

What tips do you have for maximizing travel time? Tell us in the comments! Happy travels!

***

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write and travel and wants to travel more.

American Road Trip: Part Three

We’re back, Roads Scholars, with another installment in our “American Road Trip” series. When last we wrote, we were young, naive, and optimistic. Since then, we’ve seen things. 

Road trip to washingtonAs a result, we can now write with more authority on road-tripping with small children. As a Washingtonian residing in Utah for the last decade or so, I’ve taken the lengthy drive between the states countless times. However, this month, my husband and I loaded up our five-month-old and almost three-year-old into our Toyota RAV4 and embarked on this drive as a family for the first time. We survived and we’re here to tell the tale. Here’s what we did, here’s what we regret, here’s what we’d do differently if we did it again.

What We Did

Child Prepping

The drive from Salt Lake City to my parents’ home in Washington State is approximately twelve hours and takes you through Boise, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and finally western Washington and the small town where my parents live. It’s a long drive for an adult, but it’s especially rough for a toddler. 

To keep our toddler busy, we made sure we made a variety of games, activities, and shows. We had been considering a Toniebox for a while and decided to pull the trigger for the trip. It was a huge hit and even though we listened to the same song for maybe half of the drive, it kept our little girl entertained and happy. We also took coloring pages, books, the iPad with plenty of annoying toddler content, and small toys and games. We put these in a caddy next to her seat for the drive there, which didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, so we changed it on the way back.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do for our five-month-old other than take a few toys she likes and some infant contrast cards. She tolerated these, though she was quick to let us know when she got bored.

Route Prepping

As mentioned, I’ve driven this route countless times so I know the route well. What I didn’t know is where/how often to stop with our girls. Rest areas can sometimes be sketchy and I wanted to feel comfortable taking my little one to go to the bathroom, as well as giving her a place to stretch and play. 

My husband and I broke the drive into two legs: the first was from Salt Lake City to Boise, a drive of about five hours; and then Boise to Snohomish, Washington, which is almost exactly eight hours. From there, we plotted our stops about every two hours. Road Trip

On the drive to Boise, we decided to stop in Twin Falls at Shoshone Falls, a beautiful waterfall that we’d surprisingly never been to. Near the falls is Dierkes Park, where we let our toddler play for a while. At each stop, I took our baby out, changed her diaper, nursed her, and laid her on a blanket in the shade so she could kick and roll. On arrival in Boise, we stayed in a hotel with a pool so our daughter could swim and get her car wiggles out. She quickly dubbed this place “our new home” and was disappointed when we had to leave the next day.

The next day, our drive was much longer so we made three stops. In Oregon, we stopped at two very cute parks, one with an adjacent public library which we had to check out. Our third stop was in Yakima, Washington, where we visited possibly the most average public library I’ve ever seen. Our stops on the return journey were the same, except we skipped Yakima because it’s so bland. Apologies to anyone from Yakima.

Necessities for all our stops:

  • Picnic blanket, or something like this, was a must for our baby. It was her play place at stops, our picnic spot, and a diaper-changing mat all in one.
  • These are a necessity for anyone who ever uses a rest area. Buy them. Keep them in your car at all times. 

Car Prepping

When you add two car seats and two adults, our car seems fairly small. We bought a trunk organizer, a car trash can, and a tiny vacuum to keep our car as organized as we possibly could. It still looked like we’d been living out of it for years after only 15 minutes of driving, but we did our best.

I discussed this in a previous post so I’m not going to go into it much, but we loaded up on snacks and drinks for the drive which kept everyone satisfied, if not happy.

What We Regret (And What We’d Do Differently)

We only wish we’d bought a bigger car before the drive. I’m kidding. Mostly. But at a few points, either my husband or I was jammed in the back seat between the two car seats with barely enough room to breathe. This made us particularly grumpy which didn’t help when one of the children was already grumpy.

On the drive to Washington, we had all our daughter’s entertainment items in a small caddy by her seat. This didn’t work as well as we’d hoped so we purchased some seat organizers for the return. Although she’s almost three, we still had her car seat rear-facing for safety, but for the return drive we turned her car seat forward facing so we could more easily help her.

Overall, the journey was surprisingly smooth. Our girls were as good as they could be, the snacks were flowing, and the stops were fun. When we weren’t helping a chatty toddler, my husband and I even had time to talk to each other. I’m not in a hurry to make the drive (or any drive for that matter) again, knowing what we know now, I think I’d do it again someday. Maybe.

This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.

 

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She still doesn’t enjoy road trips, but taking one did not kill her.

 

American Road Trip: Part One

Is there anything more quintessentially summer than piling haphazardly into the family station wagon to embark on the iconic American vacation? Let’s hit the road and take a drive through some of America’s most scenic road trips.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway

You can’t mention the words “road trip” without including the Pacific Coast Highway. This 653-mile drive stretches from DanaPoint in Orange County to Leggett in Mendocino County and includes some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the United States. A drive along CA Highway 1 (as it’s officially known) winds through Malibu, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Monterey, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Mendocino Headlands. If you’re interested, you could also extend your drive to either San Diego or the Redwoods, depending on which direction you’re headed. The only downside is having to share the road with California drivers, who apparently learned to drive by watching the Mad Max movies.

Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier, Montana

Though you could technically drive this in a day, why would you when you can stretch your trip and make stops in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the West. This road trip has virtually unlimited possibilities. Bike or walk through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, hike through the craggy cliffs in Grand Teton National Park, and try your hand at identifying the hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, before making your way to Glacier National Park and driving the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

Road trip
Me at a stop on the Road to Hana circa 2016 featuring Beach hair and very short shorts

Hana, Hawaii

Admittedly, this road trip is a little difficult to take if you’re living on the mainland and have strong feelings against driving across the bottom of the ocean, but who’s complaining about taking a trip to Maui? This 55-mile route connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. With over 600 curves, 54 bridges, countless waterfalls, and gorgeous beaches, you’ll want to take this road slow and stop as much as possible. (You’ll also want to take your Seabands and Dramamine if you’re prone to carsickness.) Some of the most popular stops are ‘Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls at Haleakala National Park, Hana Lava Tube, and the Ho’okipa lookout.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

I freely admit that I’m a little biased here (raised in Washington), but the 300-plus mile road trip through the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful (and wet) drives in America. In addition to the gorgeous scenery, you’ll be able to stop for countless stops for hikes (if that’s your thing, and why wouldn’t it be?) along the way. Within Olympic National Park, you’ll be able to drive through the Hoh Rainforest which is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. Outside of Olympic National Park, near the town of Neah Bay, you can visit Cape Flattery, the northwestmost point on the contiguous United States. A short hike will lead you to a viewing platform with dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Route 66

The road that started it all, Route 66 is over 2500 miles of road that stretches between Chicago and Los Angeles. Originally running through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before terminating in Santa Monica, CA, Route 66 is the stuff of legend. Though the rise of the Interstate eventually lead to the demise of this iconic route (you know, like in the movie Cars), you can still follow the historic treads of drivers of yore. Along the way you can visit some of the quirky attractions that became famous like Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Oklahoma, and this giant sculpture of Abe Lincoln on a wagon in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

BONUS

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Conor Pass, Ireland

This, as the geographically inclined may notice, is not in America. But it’s such a great road trip that we couldn’t help mentioning it. You’ll meander along rugged roads approximately the width of a shopping cart, with startingly green fields on one side and the crashing sea on the other. If you’re lucky, you’ll get clear skies; if you’re even luckier, you’ll see Ireland as nature intended, which is in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. You’ll pass prehistoric ruins, quaint little towns, and a lifetime’s worth of sheep. Make sure to stop in the town of Dingle for some fish and chips. 

Now that we’re full of nostalgia and wanderlust, let’s roll down the windows, unfold the map, and head out on the open road.

This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She doesn’t particularly enjoy road trips, yet has taken several of these.


Baird, J., & Revel, D. (n.d.). 21 Most Popular Road Trips in the US. HGTV. Retrieved May 23, 2023, from https://www.hgtv.com/lifestyle/travel/most-popular-road-trips-in-the-us-pictures

Yellowstone Geysers that Aren’t Old Faithful

Admittedly, we’re on a bit of a Yellowstone kick lately. As one of the nation’s oldest and most popular national parks, not to mention the second largest in the continental United States, Yellowstone offers plenty to talk about. Over 4,000,000 visitors flock to the park each year and you can bet they’re all making a beeline to Old Faithful. And while Old Faithful is incredible, it’s also incredibly popular, welcoming approximately 2,000 guests per eruption. If you’d rather skip those crowds but still want to see some impressive hydrothermal activity, here are five Yellowstone geysers that aren’t Old Faithful.

Steamboat Geyser

Here’s a fun fact: Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser. While unpredictable and occasionally years apart, Steamboat’s major eruptions spew water up to 300 feet in the air. Minor phase eruptions are much smaller, reaching between 10 and 40 feet in height. Only Waimangu geyser in New Zealand has had larger eruptions, but not for over 100 years.

Riverside Geyser

Yellowstone Geysers that Aren't Old Faithful
Grand Geyser

The aptly named Riverside Geyser is unique in that it shoots water at a 60-degree angle across the Firehole River. Time your visit right and you might just see a rainbow amid the eruption (no promises you’ll find the pot of gold, though). As of a few years ago, the eruption interval was 6 hours and 20 minutes, give or take half an hour. If you’re super into marmots (the animal, not the gear), this is also a favorite summer hangout for the yellow-bellied variety.

Grand Geyser

Located near Old Faithful in the Upper Geyser Basin, this impressive geyser has blasts that reach between 150 and 200 feet in the air, making it the world’s tallest predictable geyser. Rather than a steady stream (like Old Faithful), Grand Geyser erupts in bursts, with 1 to 4 bursts per eruption.

Grotto Geyser

Grotto Geyser wins the award for the weirdest shaped cones and is worth a visit just for that alone. Sitting on the bank of the Firehole River, this geyser is one of the most picturesque and predictable geysers in Yellowstone. With 20-minute eruptions occurring about every 6 hours, this geyser shoots water to heights of 75 feet.

Yellowstone Geysers that Aren't Old Faithful
Grotto Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser/White Dome Geyser

This Yellowstone geyser is two for the price of one! Located in the Lower Geyser Basin, Great Fountain Geyser’s 45-60 minute eruptions display a pretty impressive series of bursts and “superbursts” that can reach up to 200 feet. While most geysers do experience some periods of irregularity, Great Fountain is fairly dependable. After an eruption, the pool slowly fills over 10-14 hours and then begins to overflow about an hour to an hour and a half before the next eruption. 

While you’re waiting for Great Fountain Geyser, watch for eruptions from White Dome Geyser. While it’s normally overshadowed by Great Fountain, White Dome’s 12-foot geyserite cone is the largest in the park. Eruptions could happen in intervals between 15 minutes and three hours, so it’s basically the same schedule as the person coming to fix your dishwasher.

There you have it, five Yellowstone geysers that aren’t Old Faithful! This list is literally 1% of the geysers Yellowstone has to offer. Find a complete list here and see if you can catch a rare eruption of the geysers off the beaten path.

This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She occasionally travels (not as much as she’d like) and always eats. 


 

David L. Sifry, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Dirtsc, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

National Parks Service (n.d.). Hydrothermal Features. Yellowstone National Park. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/hydrothermal-features.htm#geysers

 

Geysers Galore: Hydrothermal Features of Yellowstone

A geyser at Yellowstone National Park.
Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Yellowstone National Park (WY, USA), Old Faithful Geyser — 2022 — 2619” / CC BY-SA 4.0

A visit to Yellowstone National Park is almost certain to involve thrilling landscapes and wildlife sightings, but what really sets Yellowstone apart from the pack is the geysers and other hydrothermal features. Of course, “hydrothermal features” sounds a bit boring, but that’s only because geologists can’t take each other seriously if they call these features “hot, occasionally explodey water that comes out of the ground.” But what’s the difference between a geyser and a hot spring? Are mud pots hydrothermal? And what on earth is a fumarole?

In today’s blog post, a continuation of our series on the national parks near Jackson Hole, we’ll explore all the different types of hydrothermal* features you’ll find in Yellowstone National Park. 

Hot springs 

Hot springs are the most common kind of hydrothermal feature in Yellowstone, probably because hot springs represent hydrothermal activity in its most basic form. It’s a pretty simple process: water seeps through the bedrock, where it comes in contact with heat below and then rises to the surface. This process of convection (hot water rising, cooling down, and then getting replaced by water from below) makes it so the water never gets hot enough to erupt. Which is good news for the people inevitably skinny dipping in the water. 

EXAMPLE: Grand Prismatic Springs may be the most photographed feature in Yellowstone. It’s a hot spring the size of a football field, glittering with rings of orange, yellow, green, and blue. It’s also deeper than a ten-story building. If you drop your keys into those superheated depths, please refrain from jumping after them. 

Fountain Paint Pot;
Diane Renkin;
January 2012;
Catalog #20444d

Mudpots

Still got your geology hat on? (We’re not sure what a geology hat looks like, but it’s probably pretty stylish, right?) Mudpots are a special type of hot spring. A gas called hydrogen sulfide (which is what gives mud pots their characteristic unpleasant smell) is usually present, giving tiny microorganisms something to feed on. These microbes help convert the gas to sulfuric acid, which in turn breaks down the surrounding rock into clay. The clay turns to mud, and voila! You get a gooey, gurgly sludge that smells like rotten eggs. Okay, we’re really not selling the experience very well, but it’s still worth a look. 

EXAMPLE: There are basically two notable locations of mud pots in Yellowstone. First, the Artist Paint Pots are about three miles south of Norris Geyser Basin. The Fountain Paint Pots can be found in the Lower Geyser Basin between Madison and Old Faithful. Both mud pots bubble various striking colors thanks to iron oxides in the goo. 

Fumaroles

A fumarole sounds like some sort of delicious pastry you might eat while on vacation in Europe, but we actually don’t recommend you put your mouth anywhere near one. A fumarole, or steam vent, happens when there’s heat and just a little bit of water below the surface. Most of the water boils away, leaving steam and other gases to hiss from the vents. 

EXAMPLE: Red Spouter is one of Yellowstone’s most famous fumaroles, so called because the earth around it is red-colored and it—if you can believe it—spouts steam.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
© Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 4.0 / WIkimedia Commons

Travertine terraces

Travertine terraces are step-like formations where formed when hot water carries dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate) through tiny fissures to the surface, where carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited. This process forms a chalky white mineral called travertine. Stunning instances of travertine terraces can be found all over the world, but we’re particular about the ones right around the corner.

EXAMPLE: Probably the most famous travertine terraces in the US are Mammoth Hot Springs, which you can view via 1.75 miles of boardwalk. (Travertine terraces like this one are technically hot springs, and “Mammoth Travertine Terraces” doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well.) 

Geysers

Like a lot of the items on this list, geysers are just another kind of hot spring. What makes them special, much like your dishwasher at any given time, is that their internal plumbing is clogged. The difference between a geyser and your dishwasher, other than the fact that a geyser is definitely not covered in your home warranty, is that the pressure builds up behind the clog until it finally erupts. 

EXAMPLE: Everyone’s heard of Old Faithful, right? But there’s also Riverside Geyser, Castle Geyser, Grand Geyser, and (the largest geyser in the world) Steamboat Geyser. (Fun fact: Americans pronounce the word “GUY-zer,” while the British, for some reason, say it “GEE-zer.”) 

Now you know . . .

You don’t have to memorize the inner geological workings of the geysers and other hydrothermal features in Yellowstone to enjoy them, but you can certainly impress (or possibly annoy) the other people in your party with your vast geological knowledge.

One more thing: it’s currently winter, which is of course not the best time to see all these features. However, there’s no better time to start planning your Yellowstone vacation. And if you’re looking for a place to say while you road trip across the West, consider Flat Creek Inn

* “Hydrothermal” comes from the Greek words for “water” and “heat.” Geologists are not known for their creativity.

Ryan Kunz is a copywriter and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including media, the outdoors, and whether or not Darth Vader could beat Batman in a fight. (The answer is yes.) He visited Yellowstone about a thousand times in his youth. 

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