• Benji Sills

Hiking with Cows - Fisher's Hill Battlefield Trail

In late May, with months of shutdowns pushing boisterous crowds to the beach, Paige and I decided on a little inland retreat to the sparsely populated Virginia town of Star Tannery. We spent a long weekend at a lovely secluded cabin, hidden away with three of our closest friends and a sizable herd of sheep in the backyard. It was a delightful vacation - we worked our way through every board game we owned and purchased enough Nerf blasters to arm an uprising, spending hours to see how it would look to shoot them at my drone from sixty feet up. We went to a dinosaur sculpture garden and tried to toast S’mores over sputtering embers during a drizzle and spent many fond moments trying to encourage the herd of backyard sheep to come hang out. But one of the most delightful surprises was a spontaneous visit to the Fisher’s Hill Battlefield Trail.

Our friend Michael, who had coordinated the trip, suggested the hike as a pleasant parting activity on our last morning. He has the brain of a supercomputer and the ability to hold dense amounts of vacation planning, whereas Paige and I have the combined intellect of a vegetable garden, so we always trust his suggestions without asking questions. This allowed us to be pleasantly surprised by the hike. What we assumed would be a standard Virginia stroll through woody mountains turned out to have an unexpected component: cows.

Lots of cows. The trail starts by entering a gate into a colossal fenced-in pasture. Rolling hills spread out for miles and dotted all along them are bulky, meandering bovines. It felt rather like we were trespassing: as city people, the closest Paige and I usually get to cows is creamer, so we were charmed by the all-access pass to a cow haven. Other than the calves, who skittered away nervously, the cows seemed very used to human presence and waddled indifferently around us as we walked. Of course, lots of cows means lots of cow presents: don’t wear your dress shoes.

Wildlife aside, it was also a lovely hike in its own right. We took a very relaxed stroll across gentle hills that also dipped briefly into the woods, admiring the slopes while we hopscotched around cow pies. It’s also worth noting that the trail is not primarily advertised as a cow sanctuary - usually the main point of focus is its Civil War history. Michael dutifully stopped every two minutes or so to fully digest each historical plaque, so we asked him to summarize at the trail’s end. He tried his best but we both thoroughly glazed over during his explanation. Even trying to research it later for historical context, I began to nod off while reading. The main takeaway seems to be that despite the Confederates strong defensive position, the battle was ultimately won by the Union. But we’d argue that the really important message is even simpler:

Cows. So many cows.

Plug Ramseur's Hill - Fisher's Hill Battlefield into Google Maps to be taken to the trailhead parking lot. The trail starts immediately behind the lot. It's a 1.2 mile loop all told and is a gentle hike for all skill levels.

Admission to the trail is free.

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