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Victorian Woman vs. wild: Isabella Bird and Colorado

Born in Britain in 1831, Isabella Bird arrived in Colorado in 1873. She was one of the first travel writers and she wrote about the mile high state and Colorado citizens.

Traveling south from the Cheyenne railhead she examined Greeley plus Fort Collins, and then stopped to winter in Estes Park. She found these towns unremarkable, except for the latter.

Here, Ms. Bird enjoyed her stay, visiting with all eight inhabitants, especially a known outlaw by the name of Jim Nugent.

Her adventures in Estes Park included an exciting climb up Long’s Peak in petticoats, surviving extreme temperatures sleeping in her log cabin, she awoke one morning with frost on her coverlet, and near starvation as the local game population had suffered from bitter cold.

Later, Ms. Bird traveled south and visited mining camps and ranches, or wherever she could find a place to rest. She never carried a weapon, nor did she ride side saddle, and her horse ‘birdie’ carried her the 800 miles throughout the mile high state. Isabella always traveled alone.

She did stop in Denver, where her visit caused a stir in social circles. She stayed with the Byers family at the Byers-Evans house, which is now a museum.

Afterward she traveled west up into the high country, across the continental divide where she stayed in some rough mining camps that don’t even exist as ghost towns anymore, but Isabella never had any trouble.

A courageous explorer and a rugged Lady, Isabella Bird wrote of her experiences in A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains; an accurate travel diary, this book details her exciting adventures in the mile high state.




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