I have been long overdue for a camping trip. Several weeks earlier, I was talking to my friend Austin about good two-day trips to take and he suggested Cochise Stronghold.
My parents own about 40 acres in the Dragoon Mountains so I was familiar with Cochise Stronghold but my hiking knowledge of the area was fairly limited. The original plan was for Austin and I to go with our dad's but Austin's father wasn't able to make it so the three of us headed down in the early morning hours on Sunday.
We arrived at the Cochise Stronghold campground and decided to stay in the primitive (and also free) campground since they are spread out more and offer a lot more privacy than the fee campground further up the road. I highly recommend staying in the primitive campground if you don't mind forgoing facilities and running water.
We decided to set up camp once we got back and set out on the trail right away. After walking through a short section of the Nature Trail, we began down the Cochise Trail, part of the Sky Islands Traverse route. We walked along Cochise Trail to the Half Moon Tank, a pretty impressive dam that is inscribed with "Green Bros" and a date in 1952. From there we continued on the trail until just after the Stronghold Divide between east and west, which is also the highest point of the trail.
Austin knew of a side trail just after the Stronghold Divide, marked by a very faint cairn, that stretched out eastward toward Rockfellow Dome. This trail was a little more primitive, and a little more strenuous, than the Cochise Trail. It led to a canyon between two peaks that allowed for you to make the choice of ascending on the trail above the rocks, or attempting to crawl under and over the rock caves. My father decided to take the former while Austin and I did the latter. Negotiating fallen rocks is one of my favorite things to do since it combines a little of hiking, rock climbing and caving and is a nice way to break up some of the monotony of trail hiking.
After meeting up with my dad, we then had to start descending towards the campground since we still had to make camp before the sun set. The way down was more strenuous since the trail is not very well marked and the terrain can be iffy for those not familiar with bushwhacking. At one point, we had to shimmy across a rock face that was probably around a 45% grade and I learned that I need to invest in a new pair of hiking boots when one of my feet slipped and I nearly slid down the 50 foot face. I have a short video below from our descent. The beautiful views made the climbing down very enjoyable.
We made it back to our campsite with about 35 minutes of sunlight left so we set up camp, concocted a few drinks, and relaxed around the fire until we all got tired.
The next day, we decided to hike the Middlemarch Canyon Trail which was more strenuous of a climb than the previous day. This was partially due to the trail being washed out. We made it to the end of the trail, a gate that leads down into Middlemarch Canyon. From there Austin and I decided to bushwhack up the nearest peak. We climbed to the top which had a beautiful view of the valley below. A panorama is included in the photos below.
We all then climbed down and decided to head back to Tucson to enjoy a meal of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day.
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