Thursday, May 31, 2012

Primavara in Petrosani

A travel opportunity arose as worker's day rolled around in Romania as well as probably all former communist states.  Worker’s day is the first of May and a national holiday.  This means that its an official day off in Romania and many people go to the seaside as it marks the opening of the season there.  It’s my understanding that if you’re Romanian and you don’t make it to the seaside on the first of May then you probably have a picnic or a barbeque if the weather is nice.  I decided that instead of descending to sea level like many people from Bucharest are doing I’d climb in elevation and head to the mountain.  Former Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders have taken time on a monthly basis to make it back to their Romanian homes where they lived and worked their first two years of service.  Unfortunately I have not followed the trend and finally I took the chance to make it back to Petrosani for the holiday. 

The decision to revisit Petro City seemed almost destined.  After visiting a few weeks ago with Wes in a depressing rain, my desire to hit the mountains only deepened.  The bitter-sweet event that is the COS conference took place in the days leading up the beautiful 1 May weekend in Petrosani and it happened in Cluj.  The location worked out perfectly as I could easily take a longer but still direct route back to Bucharest while stopping for a couple of days in Petrosani.  Monday being an extra day off leading up to the first of May and making for a 4 day weekend was the third major reason to return.  Finally the “cherry on top” was the weather, forecasting sun and warmth during the entire weekend.  It would have been a crime for me to sit around in Bucharest in such conditions. 

Cascada Lazar

The best days are the discovery days and this was one of them.  It was one of those days when you wake up in the morning knowing “x”, have had these “y” experiences until now and thinking “z” about what there is to come, and when you go to bed that evening all of those values have changed.  The destination was talked about a bit, documented a bit, little more than a rumor, certainly unplotted and it was the day’s goal to find it.  The last time this happened I found myself in a field of thick evergreens pulling myself along, struggling to find a way.  Eventually the way was found, the day was complete and it remains unforgettable.  See Lacul Burtan.  This time the destination was a waterfall and though it didn’t require the same amount of struggle as Lacul Burtan, the mere fact that it was unmarked added to the adventure, which might end up preparing me a bit for those unmarked high peaks in the ADK.  The waterfall is Lazar Falls and it is located in the mighty Retezat Mountains of Romania. 

Ernest, Doamna Grecu and myself were back at it again like we were during so many weekends when I was residing in the small miner/mountain region of Romania.  This time Doamna Grecu’s son who has a passion for photography joined.  It isn’t hard to find someone in the Jiu Valley that has a passion for photography as there are countless places and moments in nature there that you simply must immortalize in a digital file.  See the “stories in picture form” link list to the right.  The last major hike took place in the same region, the southern edge of the Retezat Mountains.  Though they are not the highest peaks in Romania or even in the region, some of the most beautiful sights that I have experienced have happened there.  The snow-covered peaks shined brightly in the morning sun but where soon forgotten when the road thinned out and we were following a stream up through thick forests. 

The central point of the hike was a grass covered bridge that somehow had a boulder fall down on it, taking a large chunk out of its far left side making it impassable by car and leaving the upper half of the road just for those on foot.  If only there were more bridges like this one that the mountain declared war on, leaving even more wild places for those willing to get out of their mobile rooms and feel the rocks under the soles of their shoes.  Throughout the day the bridge served as a resting spot, a water refill, a seat, a kitchen table, a bed and a crossroads.

First we crossed the bridge choosing the path that led us to our destination, Lazar Falls.  The waterfall was about 15 meters high and after a short struggle we found a good spot to take some photos from.  While the other guys where taking photos I decided to explore the area in search of an overhead view.  The view I didn’t really find but I did make it to the other side of the waterfall where the trail seemed to end.  We decided that there must be more but maybe in another direction so we returned to the grass covered bridge to eat lunch and consider another route. 

After lunch we headed up another stream by the bridge.  That stream took us over some rough terrain and before going too far we found a small waterfall to rest at.  The group decided to call it quits there, rest and head back but there was talk of a higher waterfall somewhere in the area.  In my experiences with waterfalls in the great finger lakes region of New York State, you might find a couple small ones here and there but if you keep heading up the river it is very possible to find a large impressive one.  I saw a curve in the river not far up and while the others were resting I decided instead to explore.  Just beyond the curve there was a series of 3 small waterfalls with a fourth large waterfall following.  After catching a closer look I noticed that the forth one, though hard to get to, was even higher than Cascada Lazar.  I think it is what others on forums called Cascada Maria. 

Following my discovery I returned to the group to report the findings but eventually we ended up descending down to the main road to end my first of three hikes this springtime in Petrosani. 

Cascada Lazar was on a Saturday.  Sunday and Monday I participated in hikes that I have done before but really enjoyed.  Sunday hiked in Parang on one of my favorite trails which took use to a ski area, a large rock where I took a nap and a descent past sheepfolds.  The views of Parangul Mic from Partia Slima on a sunny spring day are amazing when the top of the snow capped peak shines against the light blue sky.  Monday’s hike took us to up to Straja with a decent down Braita.  In a few locations along the trail downed trees presented an obstacle.  These trees along with the steep descent, uneven trail and heavy leaf coverage made for a slow, exhausting hike.  Despite our challenges it was a great day of hiking through the forest alongside waterfall after waterfall.  We exited the forest joining the number of groups of barbequers out to get a tan and spend some time in nature on their day off.  It was the Monday before May Day, a long weekend and a beautiful day when we stopped for a much appreciated beer at a small cafe just off the trail. 

Once again springtime in Petrosani doesn't fail to impress me making springtime my preferred season of the year.  

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