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Makoshika State Park, MT
mini location map2012-09-13
7 by photographer avatarCharger55
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Makoshika State Park, MT 
Makoshika State Park, MT
Hiking avatar Sep 13 2012
Hiking5.00 Miles
Hiking5.00 Miles   3 Hrs   30 Mns   1.43 mph
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Makoshika State Park park is situated about an hour west of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the sleepy little town of Glendive, Montana. Once a farming community on the Yellowstone River, Glendive has now been struck by the oil boom that has affected most small towns in the region. That's thanks to the heavy concentration of fossils in the area. A small museum at the visitor's center displays a reconstructed triceratops skull found in the park. The ranger also speaks of the park as a giant living fossil and points me toward a partially excavated Hadrosaur site within the park. I make note of the site's location, but choose to do some off-trailing on the park's windswept slopes.

Makoshika is Montana badlands, known for being more arid than its North Dakota counterpart. The evidence is definitely there. Yucca and cactus are more present here than anywhere else on my trip. I also see lizards for the first time after stepping out of the car. They scamper underneath my feet and for a brief moment I forget that I'm a long way from Arizona.

Rocks of different colors give the trail an otherworldy feel as I twist and turn my way through a coulee. Purple, gold and red are the primary colors, mixed in with gray sandstone. When the coulee ends, I assess my options. Two badland rock formations tower above me. They resemble miniature versions of the Alps and I dub them the Matterhorn and the Eiger respectively. The summits are too thin and composed of loose stone, but I venture I can reach the base of the Eiger's "Nordwand" and rest in the shade.

Scrambling proves to be rather easy, facilitated by the 70-degree temperatures and a gentle breeze that grows stronger the higher I climb. At the base of the Nordwand the parks hoodoos and oddly-shaped summits spring to life. My descent involves a high valley filled with hoodoos and a steep drainage that occasionally requires all fours to navigate.

Eventually, I reach the park's main trail and make an ascent to the Hadrosaur site and another overlook. The fossils are unimpressive. I have a tough time figuring out which is bone and which is rock. The overlook is more my style, with a metal bench that overlooks Glendive and the Yellowstone River in the distance. My return to the car follows a wide, muddy coulee that parallels the parks main road.

There's a tall summit by the visitor's center and I make it my next mission to climb it as high as I can go. It looks intimidating. I decide to park in the visitor's center lot. If I fall or get stuck, my car will be easy to find. The first portion of the climb proves to be easy, but the higher I go the stronger the wind gets. I reach the base of the main cliff and the wind is now blowing sand in my face. Soldiering on, my next obstacle is quite the surprise - a thirty foot chasm that drops down into the mountain. It's smaller than a mine shaft, but big enough to swallow a human body. I maneuver my way around it and end up topping out about 30 feet below the actaul summit.

Going up ends up being the easy part. Getting down requires using both my hiking poles as added appendages. It also involves throwing my pack ahead of me as it limits my mobility. I learned once before; anytime the pack goes first you've probably gotten yourself in a situation you shouldn't have. Aside from a short nature trail the next morning this is the last real hike on my trip. I make sure to say a little prayer of thanks once I reach safe ground.
"I've driven across deserts, driven by the irony, that only being shackled to the road could ever I be free"
- Frank Turner "The Road"

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