A Windmill to the West

by Charles Thursday, May 23rd 2013

This is part 2 in a series of posts on the Sky Island Traverse - previous post: Sky Island Dreaming, next post: Gates into the Green.

From Cochise Stronghold the Sky Island Traverse travels west to Highway 80 and then on to the San Pedro - for this section we departed from the published route and looked over maps, aerial imagery and land ownership information to come up with a different way to exit the Stronghold and arrive at Highway 80 near the Curtis Windmill...

Part 1 - Slavin Gulch Trailhead to Middlemarch Road along FR 687 - 2.8 Miles

Forest Road 687 - headed towards Middlemarch Road

I have been on this section of FR 687 a number of times to access the legendary climbing formations in the Stronghold - but never on foot - it is May and it is hotter than I would like - but looking left to the amazing jumbles of rock is amazing.

Classic Cochise - a ridge filled with complex boulders and rock formations - looking east from Forest Road 687

Part 2 - Middlemarch Road to Unnamed Road West - 4.1 Miles

Looking back on the junction of Forest Road 687 and Middlemarch road - Sheepshead in the background.

Fences, houses, animals and old buildings come into view that I have never noticed from the car. The subtle curves, drops and climbs - along with friendly waves from passing cars - break up the dusty miles - but eventually I am just ticking off dusty miles to Part 3.

The wide dusty dirt highway...

Part 3 - West on Old Roads to Highway 80 at the Curtis Windmill - 7.9 Miles

Gate into Arizona State Trust Land just west of Middlemarch Road

The miles on Middlemarch give us access to a swath of Arizona State Trust Land - permit required - where old dirt roads run west to Highway 80. The road I want is unmarked and a GPS waypoint helps me find the junction. My feet appreciate being off the wide dusty road and enjoy the rocks - a nice change from the uniform surface of Middlemarch Road.

A view of the Creosote - Arizona State Trust Land west of Middlemarch

This road appears to get very little use and I am alone amid a sea of Creosote - an occasional Juniper floats into view and Ocotillo break the skyline - white and green in the nearby wash - all I can hear is the wind. I watch my map carefully and eventually take a right turn along a fence, here the trail becomes more overgrown - a few careful steps over another fence - more overgrown road and then signs of cattle.

The road takes me to an area near a well and water tank that are obviously used for cattle - thankfully not here at the moment. 

Water tanks and well with Cochise Stronghold in the background

From here the roads show more signs of use but I am still alone as I pass under the power lines and eventually out to Highway 80 at the Curtis Windmill...

Curtis Windmill - just off the east side of Highway 80

Map 1 with comments - High Resolution JPEG (2.9 MB) or High Resolution PDF (3.4 MB)

Map 2 with comments - High Resolution JPEG (2.8 MB) or High Resolution PDF (3.4 MB)


-I did this in several smaller segments and originally thought this would be 2 sections, but later realized this made the most sense as the single section presented here.

-This route exits Cochise Stronghold at a different point and takes a different route over to Highway 80 than the published Sky Island Traverse route - but it arrives at Highway 80 at the same spot.

-As mentioned briefly above traveling across Arizona State Trust Land requires a permit - as far as I am aware permits are not available online and you will likely be obtaining your permit via US Mail (be prepared for the delay!).

Hiking Report

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!