Series 1, Ep. 1/3
Three trailblazing women – Ruby Wax, Melanie Brown and Emily Atack – come together to retrace the footsteps of intrepid Victorian explorer Isabella Bird, whose exploits have largely been lost to history.
At a time when most explorers were men, Yorkshire born Isabella was a trailblazer. Being prescribed ‘mountain air’ to cure her malaise, in 1873 Isabella set off on her travels across the globe to find exactly that. Travelling alone, she crossed the lawless American Wild West, riding 800 miles on horseback through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She befriended outlaws, climbed mountains and faced grizzly bears, in what was a restrictive era for women in Britain.
Using her original 1873 book, A Lady’s Life In The Rocky Mountains, as inspiration for their own historic American adventure, Ruby, Mel and Emily want to pay homage to this forgotten pioneer. They explore the people, places and curious customs of an ever changing America, while reflecting on the changes in Western society over the last 150 years and their own experience of womanhood.
Beginning their epic journey in Cheyenne, just north of the Colorado border, Ruby, Emily and Mel immediately immerse themselves into the spirit of the Wild West.
From when her journey began in 1873 Isabella Bird became known throughout Colorado as “the Englishwoman who rode as well as a man” – and so the trio decide to experience life in the saddle. For Ruby, it’s her first time on a horse since a terrible riding accident and it’s Emily’s first time ever on a horse. At a riding school and cattle ranch the trio use teamwork and determination to take on the intimidating job of wrangling cattle.
As they journey further into the mountains, Ruby, Mel and Emily visit Estes Park, a stunning valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks that Isabella described as “exceeding all her dreams”. They learn about Rocky Mountain Jim, a one-eyed outlaw whom Isabella met on her travels – and with much speculation about the nature of their relationship, the trio are curious to find out more.
Embracing Isabella’s dive into uncharted territory, our trailblazers find themselves in an old mining town turned hippy hangout, meeting the locals and sampling the town’s delicacies.
Ruby, Emily and Mel experience life deep in the wilderness, fishing and telling stories around the campfire with a modern-day ‘mountain man’ who lives off the land.
They attempt to emulate a feat Isabella achieved nearly 150 years ago: to climb one of Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot mountains.
Trailblazers – A Rocky Mountain Road Trip
Monday at 9.00pm on BBC Two.
Image: BBC/Studio Ramsay/Jill Worsley.
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