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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by…
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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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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 |
I completed A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, which I own and is a public domain book. One more book to check off my tbr list. :)

The chapters are actually long, highly detailed letters chronicling Isabella Bird's journey from San Francisco to Colorado during the 1870's. The detailed descriptions of all things botanical are one of the highlights and most pleasureable aspects of the book. Isabella certainly lived a colorful life and had some wild experiences during her travels. Much of her travels were on horseback during inclement weather. I haven't decided if she was brave or just naive and lucky to have survived some of the situations she found herself in; maybe a combination of both? It seems individuals were much hardier back then and the types of letters written to chronicle such events could probably be considered a lost art form now.

Four stars and highly recommended for those who enjoy reading about bygone eras in the US and books in letter or diary format.

For more information about the author's journey please refer to: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?...

I found this interactive map very helpful, as it allowed me to envision and better understand the author's travel routes.

Favorite Quotes:

"Very uninviting, however rich, was the blazing Sacramento Valley, and very repulsive the city of Sacramento, which, at a distance of 125 miles from the Pacific, has an elevation of only thirty feet. The mercury stood at 103 degrees in the shade, and the fine white dust was stifling." - Isabella L. Bird
(She didn't mince words. This made me chuckle; Sacramento can certainly feel like an oven during the Summer.)

"The most attractive tree I have seen is the silver spruce, Abies Englemanii, near of kin to what is often called the balsam fir. Its shape and color are both beautiful. My heart warms towards it, and I frequent all the places where I can find it. It looks as if a soft, blue, silver powder had fallen on its deep-green needles, or as if a bluish hoar-frost, which must melt at noon, were resting upon it." - Isabella L. Bird ( )
  Lisa805 | Aug 15, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabella L. Birdprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.)
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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 4 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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