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Short Stories

Mystery of K.R.N. Trail

by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart

In January 2000 when we hiked the Campaign Trail in Campaign Creek, we photographed a broken redwood trail sign that was lying on the ground. Some familiar names were written on it such as “Reevis Gap Trail” and “Upper Horrell Place,” but the name “K.R.N. Trail” was new to us.

We asked many people about the K.R.N. Trail name, but most people had not heard of it. Peter “Bigfoot” Busnack at the Reevis Mountain School remembers using the K.R.N. Trail name when they purchased the Upper Horrell Place from Jim and Earline Tidwell in 1979.

A 1969 Tonto Forest map shows the Reevis Gap Trail (217) starting at the Upper Horrell Place ranch house and continuing over to Reavis Ranch. In those days, Reavis was spelled Reevis on all the maps and signs. On the 1969 map, Pinto Peak Trail (213) started in Horrell Creek, went up Campaign Creek, continued over the Campaign-Pinto Creek Divide, and ended on West Fork Pinto Creek. The trail along Campaign Creek did not have a trail name for the two-mile distance between the Reevis Gap Trail and the Pinto Peak Trail.

After two and a half years, the mystery of the K.R.N. Trail was solved when Kenneth R. Nelssen told the story of the K.R.N. Trail at his home in Camp Verde on June 10, 2002. Ken worked for the U.S. Forest Service at the Tonto Basin Ranger District from 1954 to 1979 and still remembers the area with great affection and enthusiasm.

In the late 1950s or early 1960s, Kenneth Nelssen was making improvements to the trails in the Campaign Creek area. He and his Forest Service crew were staying at the Upper Horrell Place. Earl Horrell came and stayed with them to help locate the old trails. Earl told Nelssen

 K.R.N. sign along Campaign.

K.R.N. Trail sign along Campaign Creek

employees, so the trail was eventually renamed the Campaign Trail, but one of the K.R.N. signs was left in place. That is the sign we found.

On January 23, 2002, Kevin McCombe of the Tonto Basin Ranger District removed the K.R.N. sign and a heavier oak sign (Campaign-Pinto Creek Divide sign) from the Campaign Creek area and carried the signs seven miles out of the Wilderness for us. He donated them to the Superstition Mountain Museum. We appreciate his help in preserving the history of the area.

To reach the Campaign Trail you begin on the Roosevelt Lake side of the Superstition Wilderness on SR188 and take dirt road FS449A up to the Campaign Trailhead just north of the Reevis Mountain School (old Upper Horrell Place). Today the Campaign Trail (256) starts at the Campaign Trailhead, goes up Campaign Creek, continues over the Campaign-Pinto Creek Divide, and ends where it meets the West Pinto Trail (212) on the West Fork Pinto Creek.

about several trails in the area including one trail that went up Campaign Creek toward Pinto Peak. Nelssen noticed blazes on the trees along Campaign Creek, found the old trail, and flagged it. Since he located the trail, it was suggested that the trail be named with his initials, K.R.N.

The Tonto Basin Ranger District designed the redwood signs, and then sent the materials and the plans to the Florence Prison where the trail signs were fabricated. Ken and his trail crew packed the signs and redwood posts into Campaign Creek on horses and established the K.R.N. Trail. The trail ran along Campaign Creek, going south, for about two miles from the Reavis Gap Trail to the Pinto Peak Trail. They never did work the K.R.N. Trail because they ran out of money.

Ken explained that the redwood signs, like the one we found, were very popular with bears. They loved to sink their teeth into them. As a result, Ken said they later switched to making trail signs out of oak wood.

Sometime after the trail was named and signed, it was decided that it might not be a good policy to name the trails after living Forest Service

Superstition Wilderness Trails