Isabella Bird was an inveterate traveller, naturalist, and writer. This might not be an unusual description for women today but Bird was all of these things in the mid-nineteenth century, a time when women's lives were far more constrained than they are today. She chronicled many of her travels in letters home to her sister before they were published in collections.
This particular collection of letters details Bird's long journeying through the Rocky Mountains, into the heart of the land, often unaccompanied, only choosing her routes based on her preference of the moment and always willing to deviate from the plan. She wrote beautiful descirptions of a time and place much changed today, appreciating the remote wildness she found on many of her tramps. In addition to her natural writings, she also turned her eye on the people who inhabited these lonely, majestic places as well and her character depictions are delightful. She has captured the character of the folks who chose to eke out a living homesteading in the shadows and valleys of these majestic mountains, capturing the fortitude, the sometime lawlessness, the hospitality, and the suspicions of her hosts and acquaintances.
Make no mistake that this is a modern day account. It is very much rooted in its time and it takes a little adjustment to Bird's language and writing to get into the book. But once in the story, the reader will happily accompany her on her meanderings, oftentimes in awe of her determination. The writing flowed clearly and smoothly along and I'll probably try searching out more of her straightforward and appealing travelogues. I may not have to suffer the discomforts she did in traveling but the romanticism of her journey, even when she encounters difficulties, is unbeaten.