When you Google ‘intrepid solo women’s travel,’ they should have a picture of Isabella Bird. I have been reading her book about Colorado, which she visited in the 1870s, but she also visited Australia, Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, India,Tibet, Turkey, Persia, Kurdistan, Baghdad, Tehran, China, Korea, and Morocco.
In later life, she used the celebrity status she had attained to found not one but two hospitals in India. Not only that, she’s a hell of a writer. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s her description of a cattle round-up in Estes Park, Colorado:
“In one wild part of the ride we had to come down a steep hill, thickly wooded with pitch pines, to leap over the fallen timber, and steer between the dead and living trees to avoid being ‘snagged,’ or bringing down a heavy dead branch by an unwary touch.
Emerging from this, we caught sight of a thousand Texan cattle feeding in a valley below. The leaders scented us, and, taking fright, began to move off in the direction of the open park, while we were about a mile from and above them.
‘Head them off, boys!’ Our leader shouted, and with something of the ‘High Tally-Ho in the Morning!’ away we went at a hard gallop down-hill.
I could not hold my excited animal; down-hill, up-hill, leaping over rocks and timber, faster every moment the pace grew, and still the leader shouted, ‘Go it boys!’ and the horses dashed on at racing speed, passing and repassing each other, till my smart but beautiful bay was keeping pace with the immense strides of the great buck jumper ridden by ‘the finest rider in North Americay,’ [some guy mentioned earlier] and I was dizzied and breathless by the pace at which we were going.
A shorter time than it takes to tell it brought us close to and abreast of the surge of cattle. The bovine waves were a grand sight: huge bulls, shaped like buffaloes, bellowed and roared, and with cows with yearling calves, galloped like racers, and we galloped alongside of them, and shortly headed them and in no time were placed as sentinels across the mouth of the valley.
It seemed like infantry awaiting the shock of cavalry as we stood as still as our excited horses would allow. I almost quailed as the surge came on, but when it got close to us, my comrades hooted fearfully, and we dashed forward with the dogs, and, with bellowing, roaring, and thunder, the wave receded as it came.
I rode up to our leader, who received me with much laughter. He said I was ‘a good cattleman,’ and that he had forgotten that a lady was of the party till he saw me ‘come leaping over the timber, and driving with the others.'”
A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Lucy Bird. A trifle slow-going at the beginning, but it winds up galloping away with you. Wait till I tell you about her romance with ‘Mountain Jim.’ A grizzly bear had ripped away half his face some years before, but some chicks dig that.