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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by…

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (1879)

by Isabella L. Bird

Other authors: Nancy G. Gambrill (Map and Index)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
In what started as letters to her sister Isabella Bird paints vivid pictures of a very young Colorado as she travels from the Sandwich Islands to Estes Park, Colorado. Because the trip to the Hawaiian islands is so fresh in Bird's mind, she can't help but make interesting comparisons between the tropical island and the wild western plains. She even wears the same clothes in both climates. As with Bird's other adventures, her courage and tenacity shine through her prose. Most memorable for me was the fact Bird would don a long skirt and ride polite side saddle in the company of men but alone she would wear pants and ride western style. Comfort, not propriety, was her ultimate goal. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Aug 21, 2018 |
Isabella Bird was a middle-aged Victorian-era Englishwoman who apparently hadn’t read the middle-aged Victorian-era Englishwoman manual and thus traveled all over the world alone. And rode astride (except when somebody might be watching). Her book narrates her adventures in the Colorado Rockies in 1872-73. Interestingly, she doesn’t give a particular reason why she stopped over in Colorado (she was on her way back from a trip to Hawaii, and she doesn’t volunteer why she was there, either). At any rate, she did quite well for herself while here; rounded up cattle for an Estes Park rancher, engaged in a very discrete flirtation with the one-eyed desperado Rocky Mountain Jim (“desperado” is her word; about half the male population of Colorado is “desperados”, which, given the year was 1872, probably wasn’t far wrong), and became the first woman to ascend Long’s Peak (in October, at that). Sometimes you wonder if Isabella was totally clueless, incredibly lucky, or just gifted with the sublime self-confidence of a Proper Englishwoman. I favor the last. Her writing is almost modern seeming – she gives credit to the scenery but eschews the paroxysms of overblown language that flow from the quills of other Victorian travel writers, and has just enough of a sense of humor to provoke a grin now and then. For Coloradans, the best parts are probably her descriptions of the towns she passes through – Fort Collins is “altogether revolting” and has “less bugs but more flies” than Greeley; Longmont (“Longmount” to Ms. Bird) is “as uninviting as Fort Collins” and Boulder is “hideous”. (Denver, at least, has “good shops and fair hotels” and is sufficiently tamed that “shootings are as rare as in Liverpool”). To be fair to Ms. Bird, Coloradans seemed to be rather prejudiced against Englishwomen, but generally came around when Ms. Bird demonstrated her willingness to pitch in and wash dishes, cook, and herd livestock. I think I’d like to hear more of Ms. Bird; she continued her travels to Japan, Malaya, the Punjab, Kurdistan, Persia, China, and Canada. A pleasant and quick read. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 2, 2017 |
A Ladys Life in the Rocky Mountains
1873 Mining towns and other adventures on her way home to England.
Isobella Byrd traveled on horseback and met quite the variety of colorful characters.
Book contains a collection of letters from Isobella to her sister as she describes in very detail her travels and things she sees along the way.
So very detailed it sounds so beautiful. Boric acid use for getting rid of bugs-we use it today even!
So many sites are seen up close and personal.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device). ( )
  jbarr5 | Nov 22, 2017 |
Isabella L. Bird was a famous 19th century English travel writer. The setting for this memoir is 1873, mostly in and around Estes Park, CO which at the time was a remote outpost. Life revolved around food - wild game which was rare even by this time, or cattle, or dairy and flour. Despite being in the so-called "wild west", Isabella maintains she never slept outdoors, an idea she found repellent, because there were plenty of homesteads around, The rule of the land was any house was available to travelers so long as you either paid or provided some sort of help. On her scramble to Long Peak she says there was snow-pack year-round at the top, but a recent Google Maps view shows it very snow-less. At one point she travels on the road that is now I-70, the main east-west highway through CO. Later authors surmised Isabella had a romance with "Mountain Jim" Nugent whom she found attractive (but not a man for marriage she says) and this is the part of the narrative with the most life. Overall the writing is evocative of the place and time and still fresh after 140 years. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jul 26, 2017 |
Riding a horse around in snow and snow storms is not really very interesting. Her trip seems to be more an endurance test than fun or interesting but I guess this is just not my cup of tea. Shi is incredibly cheerful. ( )
  mahallett | Feb 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bird, Isabella L.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gambrill, Nancy G.Map and Indexsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boorstin, Daniel J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my sister, to whom these letters were originally written, they are now affectionately dedicated.
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I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one's life and sigh.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
Born in 1831, Isabella, daughter of a clergyman, set off alone to the Antipodes in 1872 'in search of health' and found she had embarked on a life of adventurous travel.  In 1873, wearing Hanaiian riding dress, she rode on her spirited horse Birdie through the American 'Wild West', a terrain only recently opened to a pioneer settlement.  Here she met Rocky Mountain Jim, her 'dear (one-eyed) desperado', found of poetry and whiskey - 'a man any women might love, but no sane woman would marry'.  He helped her climb the 'American Matterhorn' and round up cattle on horseback.  The wonderful letters which make up this volume were first published in 1879 and were enormously popular in Isabella Bird's lifetime.  They tell of magnificent unspoiled landscapes and abundant wildlife, of small remote townships, of her encounters with rattlesnakes, wolves, pumas and grizzly bears and her reactions to the volatile passions of the miners and pioneer settlers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0806113286, Paperback)

In 1872, Isabella Bird, daughter of a clergyman, set off alone to the Antipodes 'in search of health' and found she had embarked on a life of adventurous travel. In 1873, wearing Hawaiian riding dress, she rode her horse through the American Wild West, a terrain only newly opened to pioneer settlement. The letters that make up this volume were first published in 1879. They tell of magnificent, unspoiled landscapes and abundant wildlife, of encounters with rattlesnakes, wolves, pumas and grizzly bears, and her reactions to the volatile passions of the miners and pioneer settlers. A classic account of a truly astounding journey.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:57 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Women were scarce enough in the West of the late nineteenth century, and a middle-aged English lady traveling alone, by horseback, was a real phenomenon. It was during the autumn and early winter of 1873 that Isabella Bird made this extended tour of the Rocky Mountain area of Colorado guided by desperado Mountain Jim. This book contains letters to her sister detailing her experiences during this travel. -- from back cover.… (more)

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