This is one of the best known and most highly respected travel accounts of a foreigner to the western region of the United States during the 19th century. Isabella Bird, a spinster world traveler, upon returning to her native England from an excursion to Hawaii, decided to stop in America and make a three-month tour of the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado. In a series of letters written to her sister in England, Ms. Bird told in fascinating detail her experiences during this "tour."
Going by train from San Francisco to Cheyenne (except for a brief hiatus near Truckee Pass, which she traversed by horseback), she was in Fort Collins, Colorado, by September 10, 1873. Her travels took her to Denver, Colorado Springs, South Park, Boulder, and Estes Park, where she climbed Longs Peak. Her observations, whether about the people she encounters or the natural wonders all about her, are acute, objective, and highly personal. She will complain about the annoying insects in one letter and then calmly relate taking a tumble off her horse when surprised by a bear in another. She is astounded by the natural beauty of the region and never seems to get enough of it; she also believes, as the saying then went, that "there is no God west of the Missouri," and that the "almighty dollar is the true divinity" (these observations made while in Denver). She recognizes the (especially) English prejudice against all things American, and refuses to go along with it. What makes Ms. Bird's book so enduring is the direct though lighthearted tone she maintains: she is an astute observer but never gives the impression she's "studying" the people or places she sees. The book can be read often and will remain entertaining each time. It's a classic - in a good sense of that word. Highly recommended.