Upon arriving back at the upper portage camp at White Bear Islands, on July 15, 1806, Lewis dispatched Private Hugh McNeal to the downriver end of the portage route to find out whether the cache was still intact and if the white pirogue had wintered alright. McNeal never made it to his destination on that trip, but added another dramatic episode to the saga of the grizzlies:
A little before dark McNeal returned with his musquet broken off at the breach, and informed me that on his arrival at willow run he had approached a white bear within ten feet without discover[ing] him the bear being in the thick brush. The horse took the allarm and turning short threw him immediately under the bear; this animal raised himself on his hinder feet for battle, and gave him time to recover from his fall, which he did in an instant and with his clubbed musquet he struck the bear over the head and cut him with the [trigger-]guard of the gun and broke off the breach, the bear stunned with the stroke fell to the ground and began to scratch his head with his feet; this gave McNeal time to climb a willow tree which was near at hand and thus fortunately made his escape. the bear waited at the foot of the tree until late in the evening before he left him, when McNeal ventured down and caught his horse, which had by this time strayed off to the distance of 2 ms. and returned to camp. these bear are a most tremenduous animal; it seems that the hand of providence has been most wonderfully in favor with rispect to them, or some of us would long since have fallen a sacrifice to their farosity. there seems to be a sertain fatality attached to the neighbourhood of these falls, for there is always a chapter of accidents prepared for us during our residence at them.
—Joseph Mussulman, 1999