Summer Staycation Stop #4: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument



Although I don’t remember its name from the informative video introduced by the planet’s friendliest park ranger, the portion of the sign that is not blotted out by the sun glare reminds me that the meaning of the name is “terrible pig.” He looks like a terrible pig, indeed!


The answer lies in the photo below.

entrance sign


The incomparable Miss Gokey, who drove something like five hours (one way) out of her way for a life-giving visit on her way from Nevada to Indiana,  took the photo of me in my glorious sweat-wicking shirt with the suspicious logo, which I’ve covered up. That’s why it looks like I’m saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

Really, Terrible Pig is no reason to avoid this lovely monument. I took what may be the best unpeopled photo ever while there, see below.

best photo ever

The plants along the trail also have funny names, like Bastard Toadflax and Narrow Beardtongue.

Pioneer cowboy James Cook used to live here, and one day he stumbled upon some tusks sticking up out of his land. Cook was big buddies with Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader, and with Cook’s assurance that they were after “rock bones” (this is according to the friendly ranger) and NOT the “yellow rocks,” Red Cloud agreed that Cook could invite paleontologists who discovered fossilized animals like the Terrible Pig and beardogs and ancestors to the modern prairie dog. These animals existed during a period of time called the Miocene. They’re not dinosaurs, but they’re not cute. They lived between dinosaur times and human/puppydog times. The Agate Fossil Beds are not the only bonebeds around these parts. In fact, I have already walked through Toadstool Park to the Hudson-Meng mammoth site. 385, the road that we drove to get from Chadron to Agate Monument, is referred to as the “Fossil Freeway.”

Miss Gokey and I had the misfortune to arrive at the monument just as the grass along the sides of the trail was being mowed. We were about ten yards behind the mower for the first half of our hike, which left us vulnerable to harrassment from many displaced bugs. Was it worth it? Totally worth it! Here’s a view from the end of the Fossil Hills Trail, to the beginning of the trail.

beginning from end

It looks way flatter than it was IRL.

I will return to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. They have an annual teacher’s workshop, the flyer for which I found this year after the event was over. There is also a geocache at the end of a trail that we didn’t walk, so there’s plenty to come back for.

On our way home, Miss Gokey and I stopped at Fort Robinson, where we ran into the Intertribal Gathering, then Chadron State Park, where we were recognized by the locals. More about those trips in posts to come.

In the meantime, for my loyal readers (Hi, Mom and Dad!) who may be given nightmares by Terrible Pig, I leave this link to something I found a moment ago when I accidentally searched for “horse dog” instead of “bear dog.” (I leave a link because I don’t want to get sued for copyright infringement.)

The Miocene was a nice place to visit, but I do believe that for daily living, I’ll take the Anthropocene any day of the week.


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