Actually, it was more like five hours, which is unfortunate, because the sign we read stated that the waterfall was an easy 45 minute hike in one direction. We figured we could pick it off in a couple of hours leaving us plenty of time to rest our legs.
The trail we planned to follow was supposedly marked with red dots painted on trees. Unfortunately, we lost track of that symbol in a hurry, the red dots soon turning to red squares. Assuming that the trail painter had simply used squares instead since that marker wasn’t on the trail map, we followed red squares through rutted off-road tracks, around swampy cow pastures, around what appeared to be the town dump being carefully excavated by locals, and up an ugly path full of unsightly dead trees. All of this walking was erratic and confusing, taking us in apparent circles. We’d follow a random track for a few minutes until it got lost in the forest, then backtrack and start again on another dead end. This went on for nearly two hours before we finally arrived directly behind the monastery we visited last night, which is only a ten minute walk from town, nowhere near a waterfall as far as we could tell.
Feeling more than a little perplexed, we took a snack break in the woods and took another hard look at the cryptic map (our Romanian literacy issues couldn’t possibly have helped the situation). Then, we headed back into town to start fresh, following the red dots.
This time, we paid better attention, noting a sign that explained that the red squares marked the edge of the national park. No wonder we were so confused. The red circles however, did still lead to a waterfall. A long walk under the now hot sun led us to a real path, with other day hikers, where we climbed made a steep short trek through the woods and up the steep canyon, finally landing us at the Cascada Urlatoarea.
The waterfall offered if nothing else, a cool spray of water and some decent ambiance while we sat and thought through the next steps of our trip and of our lives at home. Once we’d taken a nice rest, we soldiered down the hill, stopping once again for another round of pizza. (We can easily polish off two in one go.)
In all, our short day hike took two and a half times longer than it should have. It seems we might need to brush up on our route finding skills if we’re ever to be serious hikers!