By Hugh Rogers
Two pages in the front of the new edition of the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide alert the reader to “Changes in This 9th Edition.” Going beyond the headline, we included a map of a proposed trail system on Cheat Mountain (thanks to Greenbrier District Ranger Jack Tribble for the map). *
This summer, the first trails will formally open. Although work began three years ago, and they are marked on the map as “constructed,” there remained final details, including trailhead signs. Lambert Ponds is an east-west trail linking the high country to Shavers Fork; Lambert Overlook is a short connector from Lambert Ponds to a forest road and reclaimed strip mines higher up on the ridge. (I haven’t hiked the latter trail.)
Traveling there in mid-June, I stopped at two kiosks on FR 227 that described logging and mining on the Mower Tract, which the Forest Service acquired in the late 1980’s, and current reforestation that required a major undoing of old-style mine reclamation. I learned that Don Gaudineer served as District Ranger from 1926 to 1934; a name that sounds like a certain type of Mountaineer now marks a high point east of the river, Gaudineer Knob. And I was pleased to see Devane Cussins’s recollection of logging in the 1930’s, from Voices of Shavers Fork(produced by Shavers Fork Coalition, 2002, under the direction of President Ruth Blackwell Rogers).
On Lambert Ponds Trail, mountain laurel was everywhere in bloom. Bullfrogs grunted from the catttails. A hooded merganser, agitated by my passing, steered her duckling zig-zag across a pond. Clear water poured down rocky overflow channels. Mountain bike tracks in a few wet places were the only signs of trail use. The views were wide and enchanting.
Here is a description to insert at p. 175 of the Hiking Guide. Two Forest Service roads mentioned here, FR 227 and FR 233, should be added to the list of Shavers Fork Area access roads on p. 174.
LAMBERT PONDS TRAIL approx. 2.5 mi
SCENERY: exceptional DIFFICULTY: moderate
CONDITION: good ELEVATION: 3840/3620
MAPS: Snyder Knob, and p. vii in MNF Hiking Guide 9th edition
SEGMENTS: (1) FR 227 to FR 233 approx. 2.5 mi
Lambert Ponds Trail runs from the Forest Service road south of US 250 on the western edge of Cheat Mountain to the road along the Shavers Fork. It begins south of and steeply above Lambert Run, follows embankments along old sediment control ponds below reclaimed strip mines, then drops to a former road beside the run and emerges at a designated camp site near Shavers Fork. Some of the ponds are completely filled in with cattails; most are open, home to ducks and frogs. For most of its length, the trail is grassy, passing through clumps of mountain laurel and occasional young spruce and maple, offering views to the north, east, and west. Hemlock, spruce, and hardwoods shade Lambert Run. The trail has blue blazes.
Access: the W trailhead is on FR 227, 3.2 mi S of US 250 (FR 227 is the road to the right where US 250, coming from Huttonsville, reaches the top of the mountain). A trail sign should be in place by August 1, 2019. Meanwhile, look for a parking area and a wooden stake just above the first pond.
The E trailhead is on FR 233, 3 mi S of US 250 at Cheat Bridge (turn off 250 just W of the bridge). Until August 1, 2019, when a trail sign should be in place, look for a faded sign marked “Camp Site.” There is room here for several cars. The trail begins where the old road is blocked by boulders.
Segment 1: From FR 227, a faint track leads through goldenrod on the left side of a pond. Halfway along the pond is a blaze on a small spruce. Cross a narrow overflow ditch, then turn right before the next pond and continue E beside it. Follow blazes past a third pond and enter woods. The trail emerges from the trees onto an embankment. For the rest of its course, the trail is always on the N side of the ponds.
Where the ponds seem to end at a cattail-filled wetland, a blaze beside the trail has an arrow pointing back W, the way you came. Watch for the trail veering left (NE) and descending into woods. Cross an overflow channel. After this descent, the pond-side dike resumes. Cross another overflow, and at the end of this pond is a short climb up a rocky slope. At the top, to your right, a blaze on a young maple marks the beginning of the Lambert Overlook Trail, which goes S uphill into forest. Lambert Ponds Trail continues straight ahead past more ponds.
Near a large flat rock at the head of a pond, look for blazes facing back W shortly before the trail makes its final descent off the embankment and into thick forest. Cross an overflow run. As the map shows, the trail zigzags west and east again as it approaches Lambert Run. Follow the old road until it emerges into a cleared camp site on FR 233.
A short walk downhill will take you to a bridge across the run; on the N side, there is a path to the Shavers Fork.
* Note: The map and summary of changes in the new edition are inserted as pocket parts in copies of the 8th edition that we are donating to local libraries (see photos in last month’s Voice). We want to keep the old Guide useful, not misleading!