On Sunday, September 4th the Whitmans and Spaldings enjoyed a rest “first after completing a long journey, first in the vicinity of our future labours.” The party, including the Spaldings, left Walla Walla on the 6th for Vancouver. “Our boat is an open one, maned with six oars & the steersman. I enjoy it much, it is a very pleasant change in our manner of traveling. The Columbia is a beautiful [river]. Its waters are clear as crystal & smoth as a sea of glass, exceeding in beauty the Ohio of the east.”
They arrived at the Chutes, “a fall in the river not navigable where we slept & this morning before breakfast made the portage” and the Indians assisted in making the portage of about a half mile. “I had frequently seen the picture representing the Indians carrying their canoes, but now I saw the reality.”
Arriving at the Dalls on the 8th just before noon, they were again required to portage the canoes and supplies, this time two and a half miles. Again, there were Indians to help. Narcissa and Marcus took a walk and Narcissa had an unfortunate adventure – I’ll let her tell it.
“Now, Mother, if I was with you by the fireside, I would relate a scene that would amuse you, and at the same time call forth your sympathies. But for my own gratification I will write it. After we landed, curiosity led us to the top of that rock, to see the course of the river through its narrow channel. But as I expected to walk that portage, husband thought it would be giving me too much fatigue to do both. I went with him to its base, to remain there until his return. I took a handful of hazelnuts and thought I would divert myself with cracking and eating them. I had just seated myself in the shade of the rock, ready to commence work, when, feeling something unusual on my neck, I put my hand under my cape and took from thence two insects, which I soon discovered to be fleas. Immediately I cast my eyes upon my dress before me, and, to my astonishment, found it was black with these creatures, making all possible speed to lay siege to my neck and ears. This sight made me almost frantic. What to do I knew not. Husband was away, sister Spalding had gone past hearing. To stand still I could not. I climbed up the rock in pursuit of my husband, who soon saw and came to me. I could not tell him, but showed him the cause of my distress. On opening the gathers of my dress around my waist, every plait was lined with them. Thus they had already laid themselves in ambush for a fresh attack. We brushed and shook, and shook and brushed, for an hour, not stopping to kill for that would have been impossible. By this time they were reduced very considerably, and I prepared to go to the boat. I was relieved from walking by the offer of a horse from a young chief. This was a kindness, for the way was mostly through sand, and the walk would have been fatiguing. I found the confinement of the boat distressing, on account of my miserable companions, who would not let me rest for a moment in any one position. But I was not the only sufferer. Every one in the boat was alike troubled, both crew and passengers. As soon as I was able to make a change in my apparel I found relief.”