My return to the mountains has come. Remembering late last winter, there had been a three week period away from the mountain and I was itching to get back up for a hike in Parang. Last Friday it had already been almost two months since my last mountain excursion. It had to happen and it seemed to be my last chance before the cold moves in. So I made my return Petrosani but not really. I was in Petrosani to drop my bags off and sleep. The rest of the time I spent like many of the weekends I spent when I lived in Petrosani, outside of Petrosani. Excited to here about the weekend's activities, I committed to making the trip on Friday afternoon when the plan was to hike to cabana Buta. I had only been there once and though I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed one year before to do the hike there were no regrets. It was a great hike and it ended in a delicious meal made primarily of wild mushrooms. Knowing what kind of scenery was in store I psyched myself up for the hike, but we never made it to Buta.
On one hour of dirty train sleep the night before, I found myself yet again struggling to fully doze off on public transportation next to my hiking buddies and a group of young mountain enthusiasts heading uphill. We exited the minibus but only for a minute as we discovered that on demand of the large group of student customers it was heading even further up Basescu's road. Suddenly plans changed from Buta to Scorota, from familiar and exciting to unfamiliar and even more exciting. What is more exciting, adrenaline-pumping, fearful, extreme, than the unknown? To me it was unknown; to my hiking buddies it was a bit more familiar. I was in good hands.
We quickly left the group, so we thought. Thirty minutes of hiking and we were out of woods with cliffs rising up on our left. Thinking it was a good time for a first break we allowed the students to catch up to us and we ended up even with them until the early snack break at Stana Scorota. It was there that we split, my group to the right and straight up the wall while the students took their time snacking. By the time we reached the top of the first climb (not even close to our highest altitude) the group of students was still packed together at the table outside of the stana. They looked smaller than a group of ants crowded around a small piece of lollipop. We continued on, finding bright fall colors surrounded in evergreen, endangered wild-flowers (edelweiss), more climbing, and more students. A large group of students were coming down as we were heading up. They were students from the same Petrosani high school as the students we met on the way up. Imagine having monthly mountain trips in a high school club. Do these kids have a clue how lucky they are? Does anybody?
Eventually we reached the highest point of the day at Varful Puiule but not until we saw an amazing view of the Retezat high peaks. The descent consisted first of beautiful views of a lake in the distance, vibrant clouds, and steep rocks rising on our right. Unfortunately the trail was poorly marked and there was a section where the attentiveness of three hikers was necessary to keep it, until it was lost. After it was lost we bushwhacked down a steep, fairly dangerous slope through the woods to some water and eventually a forestry road. The bushwhack descent at the end of the hike sucked. Mental note... don't expect people to "leave no trace" if you can't manage to mark a trail. The wonders of the hike as a whole farley outweighed that last miserable hour.
The combination of a sleepless night followed by a 10 hour hike led to a great nights sleep only to lead into yet another amazing day of hiking in the Parang Mountains.