Monday, July 9, 2012

The Sheep Whisperer

When we first arrived in Aberdeen, Jon and I were exploring fools. Every weekend, we loaded up the car for a hike or headed into town to check out a new restaurant. Lately, life has taken over and we’ve slowly settled into daily routines in Scotland. In its own way, that’s a bit exciting; that waking up in Aberdeen is commonplace- just another day to run to the grocery store or catch up on laundry. But when this past Friday’s decent weather coincided with Jonathan’s Friday off, we knew we weren’t going to waste it on running errands.

Instead, we chose a hike from the Walk Highlands website, and spent the 65 degree day gazing at farm animals and photographing valleys. The first dilemma was over what to wear. Scotland doesn’t offer up a lot of weather where you can comfortably wear shorts, and Jonathan didn’t want to let the opportunity pass. However, when he put his hiking boots on with his shorts, he looked a bit like an Australian Park Ranger. He was faced with the very difficult decision of whether to wear pants and boots or shorts and tennis shoes. Ultimately, he went for the shorts and tennis shoes, despite the hiking guide’s warning that the trail might be ‘wet underfoot’. *Spoiler alert* He lived to regret that decision.
Anyway…let’s get back to the topic on hand: hiking the Corrachree Circuit and Knockargerty Hill. The hike begins in the picturesque village of Tarland which springs up out of nowhere about 45 minutes west of Aberdeen, which just so happens to be the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains. We just couldn’t believe that 45 minutes from our city was this lovely town in this breathtaking setting. If we’d driven 45 minutes in any direction from our house in Houston, we still would have been surrounded by cement and warehouses.

Jonathan and I spent a good portion of our hike brainstorming what the economy must be in Tarland to support such a large population (I'm guessing  few thousand). For all intents and purposes, the town is in the middle of the boonies and yet it contains cute suburban neighborhoods and brand spanking new model homes. So what do Tarland citizens do to afford such pretty houses?
I’m not sure why, but this question fascinates me. I think while I’m here, I’m just going to do research on what industries keep these vibrant Scottish townships going. Am I getting off topic again?
Back to the hike- the walk starts off at Drummy Wood, following a slight incline up a logging path. After about 5 minutes of hiking, we came upon a field of very friendly ponies. I of course took my camera out, and these sweet babies came over for their close up.
They even posed for a few so that we could get into the shot; so gracious to share the limelight.
The brown one stole my heart by following us along the path until his farm fence prevented him from going any further, at which point he let out a heartbreaking yelp.
It basically sealed the deal that one day I will own a horse. Obviously, the entire species loves me.
After having so much luck with the ponies, I figured today might also be a good day to rack up some more adorable sheep photos. I’d heard rumors that sheep were shy, but when we went to Glen Tanur, we had a whole group of them coming to check us out. I arrogantly believed that, similar to my obvious connection with horses, I must have some special sheep whispering talent which beckons them to me. Wrong.
I had zero luck with the sheep on Friday, and even got angrily bleeted at by this guy until I finally got the hint to take my camera and go away. After pondering where I could have possibly gone wrong in my approach, I realized that it wasn’t me that the sheep were attracted to at Glen Tanur- it was my lovely sidekick Bailey.
And since she had already gotten a jog earlier that morning, we left her behind for this particular hike which meant no sweet lamb photos for me. I wonder if photographers know this trick? Here’s an illustration of the difference- Corrachree Circuit without Bailey:

Glen Tanur with Bailey:
I’m willing to hire her out to any Aberdonians hoping to get some nice lamb shots.  
An option on this particular hike is to climb Knockargerty Hill for some stellar views of the Dee Valley. Since I love valleys almost as much as I love farm animals, we climbed the hill until it was too ‘wet underfoot’ to proceed. The view was worth our muddy socks and we spent quite a bit of time snapping photos and thanking the Lord for blessing us with such an amazing vantage point.
After completing our circuit hike, we drove back to Aberdeen and took a nap before heading out for some classic Scottish fare at Lairhillock Inn. 

It was the textbook definition of a perfect day. I’ve honestly fallen head over heels in love with this country, and I just don’t know how I’m ever going to leave. Yes, I have a crush on Scotland in the same way that makes 13 year old girls plaster Justin Beiber pictures all over their walls. Anytime Jonathan so much as mentions a future assignment, my eyes well up with tears and he has to assure me that we’re staying put for at least 2 years. And then my eyes well up even more because 2 years is just not enough.

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