The startling squawk of shore birds and the distant smell of the sea alerted the small band of travelers. It was late afternoon and the sun was rapidly falling over the tall, ancient mountains to the west. Encouraged, they pushed on through the night over a rocky land, strewn with boulders and still frozen from the long winters that penetrated this icy region.
The hardy lichens and mosses that survived in the thin soil offered little sustenance, and the few stunted shrubs that could be found offered pitiful shelter from the cold winds that blew relentlessly southward. As the morning's sun broke over the rounded mountains to the east, the travelers crested a final rise and looked down upon the shimmering expanse of blue-green water that filled the flat valley below.
Before them was a cold, barren and forbidding land full of strange animals, dangerous weather and uncertain ways. But it was also an unclaimed land of riches. They would eat very well this summer, and they would return with new equipment and fresh clothes. They slipped the heavy packs off their backs and talked excitedly, nodding in approval as they pointed out various landmarks that caught their eye. Then in the way of a thousand generations, they sang songs of gratitude and celebration.
For as long as the collective memory of the clan could recall, there had been legends of a great cold sea far to the north. Hunters and travelers had returned to the campfires with stories of a narrow, ice-filled estuary extending to the northern horizon where the great ice sheets sat perpetually enveloped in dark storm. At a slow, almost imperceptible rate, generation by generation, these curious peoples had made their way northward into lands newly liberated by the retreating ice.
They had left their homeland in the early spring and had been traveling northward for many weeks, following herds of game towards the headwaters of the River-That-Flows-From-The-Ice. Now as the thinning pine and spruce forests gave way to a barren tundra, the reliable herds of caribou began to thin, replaced by heartier musk ox, mammoth and mastodon, plump arctic lemmings and flocks of snowy ptarmigan.
They were not the first to come, nor would they be the first to stay. They would spend the summer fatting themselves on the rich flesh of the plentiful land mammals and the fish and shellfish of the shallow sea. They would clean and soften the hides of their kills and from these they would fashion clothing, bags, tarps to protect from the wind and other useful items.
As the shifting winds of autumn again blew the cold winds down off the horizon of ice, they would return to the proven southern quarries of chert and quartzite to replenish their weapons and spend the winter in cozier caves and warmer, more temperate, climates. Then again in the Spring they would return, exploring new regions and pushing each year a little farther north. In this way the first human settlers fought their way slowly, almost imperceptibly, generation by generation, ridgeline by ridgeline, northward.
Then, for 100 centuries, the children of these first wandering bands populated the valley of the sea between the mountains. They were cautiously optimistic. They were suspicious. They were resourceful and industrious. They were quietly proud. They were the first Vermonters.