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!).