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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (Virago Travellers)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,389 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
In 1873, a middle-aged Englishwoman toured the Colorado Rockies on horseback — alone, for the most part. Painting an intimate portrait of the "Wild West," Bird wrote eloquently of flora and fauna, isolated settlers and assorted refugees from civilization, vigilance committees, lynchings, and the manners among the men she encountered in the wilderness.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 4th 2003 by Dover Publications (first published 1873)
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It's rare that I read Westerns due to the genre being one of the wrongest things that ever wronged in the history of United States' literature. Another one is the holiday being celebrated today by the US Federal Government, a day that my ongoing reads of Genesis and Almanac of the Dead has thrown into piercing scrutiny. This work was the odd one out in the group in the brutal sense of the word, something I knew would be the case when I started out but didn't deter me due to, frankly, the shock I ...more
This fascinating book, a series of letters written in 1873 by Isabella L. Bird to her sister, documents the amazing adventure of a resourceful and daring Victorian woman. Its lush descriptions of the natural world (sunrises and sunsets, plant life, landscapes, animals, and all varieties of weather) and of domestic life (buildings, living conditions, relationships, gardening, cooking and cleaning) are captivating and entertaining.

In the autumn and early winter of 1873, on her return to England f
Jan 05, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
Isabella Bird was very ill, so her doctor sent her to America to regain some of her strength. When she set of from England for the first time, she was already a mature woman, considered a spinster by her sister's family and boring.

Over the course of the next decades, Bird would travel the world, sending back mesmerizing accounts of her travels.

It is particularly entertaining to compare her accounts with other travelers accounts- despite her gorgeous writing voice, Bird was considered to be rathe
Nov 14, 2008 Chelsea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED it. She writes all about her travels through mainly Colorado and the people she meets. Its never just a catalog of facts and things, but an amazing account of the time period in the 'wild west' full of colors, emotions, vivid detail. Amazing woman.
Jan 06, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OMG this is all true- the story of a 19th century woman-- so brave, adventurous and she is so matter-of-fact about it.

Isabella has traveled all over the worlds and sends detailed letters to her sister. She has lots of other books including about her time in Hawaii. After Hawaii, she travels to Colorado.

For someone who is a bit prim and proper, she knows how to handle horses, climbs Longs Peak (over 14,000 feet) in the snow, rides all day in freezing cold sometimes camping out but somehow manag
Very good tale, written in a series of letters to her sister in England, of Isabella Lucy Bird's extensive (and mostly solitary) travels in the Colorado Rocky Mountains during the late summer and fall of 1873. I am in complete awe of her - I'm pretty sure I would've curled up into a little ball and refused to continue once the temperature plummeted! And I enjoyed her compulsively readable style enough that I will definitely read more of her travels (some of which you can find at Project Gutenber ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why did this truly remarkable woman ride 800 miles in 1873 through the Rocky Mountains in the dead of winter alone? She like many in England suffering from a damp climate came for the “camp cure” of the thin dry air of Colorado. But, beyond that she was mesmerized by the sublimity and ethereal beauty of the place. She stayed with families leading hard lives of subsistence, living in un-chinked log cabins where snow settled on her bed over the night. She lent a hand in all endeavors; herding catt ...more
Panayoti Kelaidis
Mar 06, 2013 Panayoti Kelaidis rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to read this more decades than I care to say: more's the pity that I waited so long: this is a book to re-read again and again! It is a very quick and extremely entertianing read. Isabella Bird is one of a kind, incredibly bold--a burly mountain man would have had trouble keeping up with some of her innumerable cross-country treks in a single Colorado autumnal visit. Her lyrical penned descriptions of the Colorado Front Range will never be equalled (post Victorian writers would ...more
Evil Cat
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. Isabella Bird was an amazing woman but also the kind of idiot who would unthinkingly take stupid risks like setting out for a 30 mile horseback ride in the middle of a blizzard just because that's where she wanted to go. I'm kind of shocked she managed to survive this trip, tbh, but I'd love to have been able to sit down with her and hear all her stories.
Melody (A Charles)
Dec 14, 2015 Melody (A Charles) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
My grandma gave me this book for my seventeenth birthday, 18 months before she died, with the inscription, "Melody, dear -- Isabella Bird will surely take you on a grand adventure! Hope you enjoy the trip." Nearly 13 years later, I've discovered that she was right, and I wonder what took me so long to set out for the Rocky Mountains of 1872.

I guess I didn't expect much of an adventure, but was pleased to find that Bird was no passive observer. She immersed herself in the places she travelled, m
Sep 29, 2013 Lena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Isabella Bird was an English gentlewoman who first came to Colorado on her way back from Hawaii in 1873. In this collection of letters Bird wrote to her sister back home, she details her experiences as she rode over 700 miles, usually alone, though the mountains that fall.

This is a spectacular gem of a book. Bird is an astonishingly brave person to undertake such a journey through an untamed landscape as winter was rapidly bearing down, but that she did so as a woman at that time is truly inspir
I know it shows my own subcultural bias, but...

I wish this woman's life were a video game.
Oct 31, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to! This is the collection of letters which Isabella wrote to her sister about her travels through the Rocky Mountains in the 1870’s. Isabella is travelling on her own; sometimes with companions she picks up along the way. She has a beautiful gift for describing what she sees and experiences along the way. Her reason for the journey is to see Estes Park. She travels from San Francisco to Colorado and then into the mountains. She tells her sister a ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isabella L. Bird travelled the World during the mid to late 1800's and became a well-known travel writer. One of her adventures was through the Rocky Mountains of the early 1870's where comforts were few and dangers were plentiful. Through a series of poetically penned letters, Bird tells of an Old West which now only exists in the pages of history. Bird was an articulate and sensitive lady who moved with ease amongst desperate men, trying circumstances, and unimaginable hardships, but her journ ...more
Jul 22, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western-history
May 2010 - A very interesting book. An English horsewoman traveling western USA in the 1870's. She rode a borrowed horse, Birdie, 500 miles in Colorado, by herself, in the winter, for pleasure. The idea I remember most is that Isabella felt safe (and was safe) traveling alone because westerners "have respect for a lady". Unless she was seeing with rose colored glasses, our civilization has deteriorated a lot. Safety and security are very valuable.

July 2012 - At the time of the review above, I ha
Jen (NerdifiedJen)
First of all, I thought this book was great. Bird is unflinchingly honest (to the point where she actually made me mad a couple of times), and she was not shy about sharing her opinions as well as every detail, no matter how embarrassing, of her excursions. My biggest disagreement with her was her belief that Estes Park was the most beautiful and superior place in Colorado and all other natural sites were inferior, and in some cases, “hideous”. I have a really hard time thinking of any natural a ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great saga of one woman's journeys through late 19th century America, primarily in Colorado and primarily by herself. Her letters and diary entries include wondrous descriptions of people (esp. Mountain Jim for whom I've no doubt she had the hots, big time) and wildlife and landscapes- including flowers! trees! rivers! streams! and etc.; Bird named them all in all their living and changing brilliant colors!- she encountered along the way.

I admire Ms. Bird- she was a great writer and a fearless t
Mar 24, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am completely enchanted with Isabella Bird as an amazing woman and as a writer! Just a few chapters into A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, I had to return the copy I borrowed from the library and purchase a copy. There were so many beautiful passages, sentences and phrases that I felt compelled to highlight for future rereading. Her descriptions of both the beauty and the harshness of Colorado's geography and weather are worthy of being framed and displayed in an art museum! She paints in- ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Kerrfunk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what to say about A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. A series of letters from Englishwoman Isabella to her sister, more like a journal of three months traveling about the Rockies in the last quarter of 1873. Ms. Bird rides hundreds of miles, through blizzards and sub-zero temperatures, scaling peaks, surviving I-can't-imagine-how, apparently for the joy of seeing the beauty of the mountains as well as some supposed health benefit.

The book inspired me to google some of the places
Mar 06, 2016 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a collection of letters by Isabella Bird about her wandering son horse by herself through the Rocky Mountains. She was an English lady and it was hard to imagine how she got through these mountains on her own, sometimes in snow storms and never got lost. This was in the late 1800's so it was interesting to see how her descriptions of Colirado matched up with what I know about it. This book made me homesick for the Rockies again.
Sep 26, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isbella Bird is an English aristocrat doing the world tour in her own way. After 6 months in Hawai'i, she is going to see the Rocky Mountains on horseback. She takes teh stagecoach from San Francisco through Nevada. She makes Estes Park, CO her base and for the next 9 months, traveling on a bronco mare, she covers 700 miles writing commentary to her sister back in England. Her tone is superior to the people she meets, both in class and education, but she lauditory and humble about the life that ...more
Sep 30, 2013 Jeannie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, listened-to
I liked this book. This woman's courage was amazing. When she wanted to do something ,travel somewhere ,she did it by herself.When she found herself in difficult situations ,she never complained she just got her self out of them.Her discription of what she saw around her,was amazing.She described Estes Park in Colorado, so vividly,that it brought back my own memories of the trip I took there. This book opened my eyes to the way some people had to ,or preferred to live,when this country was still ...more
Oct 25, 2014 Abra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isabella Bird was a proper lady who was somehow brave enough to travel the world all by herself, living for years at a time in some of the "roughest" and most "uncivilized" areas in the world at the time.

This book is a collection of letters Isabella wrote to her sister Henrietta, relating her travels through the Colorado Rockies and the fierce winter she spent stranded with ranchers and miners in Estes Park. The prose is beautiful and the description is lush - but a bit purple. I occasionally fo
Laurie Durgin
Jan 12, 2016 Laurie Durgin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biographical account of an English Lady 'Explorer'; rather fearless often riding on horseback overnight alone in the mountains...staying with a variety of people from all walks of life in the Colorado Mountains....interesting snapshot of the time period and her audacity to travel in rugged conditions alone to 'see the next mountain and the wonders' of that time period.
Jan 24, 2016 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Isabella Bird sounds like an amazing woman, as illustrated in this collection of letters she wrote during a trip through the Rocky Mountains. As one does in letters, she merely describes what she has done and events that have happened in a matter-of-fact tone, but the events and activities are the stuff of grand adventures. One of her favorite activities is horseback riding, usually alone, to get to where she wants to go. She meets with bears, ruffians, trackless wilderness, blizzards... and is ...more
Janet Miller
Nov 01, 2014 Janet Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isabella Bird, a well to do English woman, shares her experiences as a single woman traveling into the Rocky Mountains and specifically Estes Park in the late 19th century. She lives and loves every bit of the beauty of the mountains through the letters she writes to her sister. As her letters follow her travels on horseback from Longmont through the difficult canyon to Estes Park, it is mind boggling to recognize the landmarks and try to relate to the difficult travel of that period of time. He ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I kept thinking that surely this couldn’t really have been true. How could a wealthy English woman, born in the 19th century and used to a life of relative ease, travel alone through the Rocky Mountains in the fall of 1873? But she was no fictional character and this series of letters written to her sister back home in England is no hoax. She was one gutsy Victorian lady and apparently quite used to roughing it on her own, because no sooner had she finished a trip to the Sandwich Islands then sh ...more
Laura C.
Oct 25, 2010 Laura C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a new hero. I learned about her by chance, after exhausting my supply of library books while in New York recently. I was in the basement of my son and in daughter in law's apartment building, doing laundry, and came across this book between the rinse and spin cycles. Fortunately, people leave books there for other souls like me, who come unprepared to entertain themselves while waiting for the dryer.

Isabelle Bird was a real woman, and the book is a compilation of her real letters of her
Mar 03, 2009 Kiri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isabella Bird has done it again. I'm awfully fond of her Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, and this time she chronicles her adventures in exploring the mountains of Colorado in the 1870's. Not only does she ride horseback nearly a thousand miles, she does it in the late part of the year (October to December), she rides through snowstorms (getting frostbitten hands while picking at the ice that tries to seal her eyes shut), she climbs Long's Peak (elevation 14,359 feet), she gives advice to desperadoes, ...more
A lady's life in the Rocky Mountains is perhaps not the most exciting of Isabella L. Bird's books, although it is both interesting and enjoyable.

The book talks about Isabella's travels across Colorado, where she spent a few months after having visited Hawaii. The picture was that of the settlements and early towns in Colorado at the beginning of the mining spree. The location, thanks to its climate and incontaminated nature, had become a convalescence resort, and received a number of tourists w
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Isabella Lucy Bird (October 15, 1831 – October 7, 1904) was a nineteenth-century English traveller, writer, and a natural historian.

* The Englishwoman in America (1856)
* Pen and Pencil Sketches Among The Outer Hebrides (published in The Leisure Hour) (1866)
* The Hawaiian Archipelago (1875)
* The Two Atlantics (published in The Leisure Hour) (1876)
* Australia Felix: Impressions of Victori
More about Isabella L. Bird...

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“Yet, after all, they were not bad souls; and though he failed so grotesquely, he did his incompetent best.” 3 likes
“I sat down and knitted for some time - my usual resource under discouraging circumstances.” 2 likes
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