Sunday, October 23, 2016
Tenting To-night - Mary Roberts Rinehart
If you're like me, you know Mary Roberts Rinehart as a fairly prolific Golden Age mystery writer. I've read a bunch of her books and enjoyed them. But browsing through the Travel section of Manybooks, a free books download site, I noticed that she'd written a book called Tenting To-night, about a pack trip she and her family had taken around 1917. I like older travel narratives, so I downloaded it.
Rinehart, her husband, and her three sons hired guides and horses to take them through Glacier National Park and the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. These were places that almost no one had travelled to before. According to her, they were the first non-Native Americans to reach some of the places. They took thirty-one horses to ride and to pack in all their supplies. When you're gone for weeks and weeks, you need lots of supplies. She and her family were, apparently, accomplished horsemen.
The Rineharts were fond of the outdoors and had camped often. They were also great anglers and were always stopping to fish. Sometimes they were successful, sometimes they were not. The boys, heavily armed, were also encouraged to shoot a bear if they saw one, you know, just so they had a skin or two for their college rooms. They did see some, but, fortunately, they were apparently very bad shots and mostly just scared off the bear.
Although I've ridden horseback in the Tetons, I'm a tenderfoot. I prefer to ride all day and come back to a hot shower, a good meal, and a soft bed. The Rineharts, as the title implies, spent the trip in tents, if they were lucky. Rain, snow at high altitudes, the occasional miner's or trapper's cabin, mosquitoes, deathly steep mountains and rock slides - no way would I do what they did. They risked their lives, the lives of their horses, and the lives of the guides. They considered the trip to be a victory, an accomplishment.
I was surprised that despite her apparent love of the wilderness, she waxed ecstatic about the eventual conquering of it by man.
Although there were interesting details in the book, maybe this wasn't the book for me. I worried about the horses and didn't really care if she or her family disappeared over a cliff. Maybe you'd like it better.