A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

by Isabella L. Bird
List(s):"Extreme Classics"
Category: "Travel"
Year of Publication:1978
Date Added:09/19/2006
Date Read:09/16/2006
Notes:Women were scarce enough in the West of the late 19th century, and a middle-aged English lady traveling alone, by horseback, was a real phenomenon. But Isabella Bird was already a confirmed world traveler "for recreation and interest solely." It was during the autumn and early winter of 1873 that she made an extended tour of the Rocky Mountain area of Colorado. Her story is told through her letters to her sister.

The book was first published as Letters from the Rocky Mountains in the English weekly Leisure Hour.
My Rating: 8

Reviews for A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

Review - A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

Isabella Bird was an English woman who traveled all over the world and wrote letters about what she saw. These letters were later turned into books. In the winter of 1873-74 (when she was in her early 40s), she was returning from some months in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). She determined to see the Rocky Mountains, and so she did — often alone on a borrowed horse, sometimes in the company of the notorious “desperado” Mountain Jim. Jim was always a gentleman. Isabella developed an affection for him and tried to convince him to give up his drinking and carousing, but without success.

On her travels, Bird and her pony, Birdie, got caught in blizzards and lost in fogs, fell through the ice of a prairie lake and spent nights looking for shelter. She climbed Long’s Peak and spent a month snowed in at a tiny cabin in Estes Park with two trappers and a theology student who frequently got up in the night and ate from their meager supply of food.

Isabella was obviously a brave woman — her journey took place three years before The Battle of the Little Big Horn, and vigilante justice and gunfights were still commonplace. And she was an excellent writer. While her account of her adventures seemed understated, I couldn’t help wondering at times if there was also a measure of exaggeration mixed in. It made for an exciting and relaxing read and caused me to wish I could taste the old West before civilization and commercialization uglied things up.
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