This past Saturday, approximately 120 hardy souls gathered at Menemsha Beach to begin the annual cross-Island hike. Nearly half the hikers were participating for the first time.

“It’s the most we’ve ever had, no question,” said Bill Veno, often referred to on the hike as “the tall man in the red hat.” Mr. Veno led everyone through 17 miles of land bank terrain, starting on the pebble-covered shores of Lobsterville and ending at Blackwater Pond Reservation. Mr. Veno said he was “flabbergasted” by the turnout.

Not everyone finished the day-long sojourn, but whether walking just a portion or the entire hike it was a chance to visit parts of up-Island normally closed off to the public.

Bill Veno, "the tall man in the red hat" led the hike. — Mark Alan Lovewell

That’s what drew West Tisbury resident, and wielder of two hiking poles, Tony Higgins, to the walk. “In years past, the hike was down-Island, which is less appealing to me. I really like it up here,” he said.

And for good reason. As the hike wound through up-Island trails and the rain held off, walkers were treated to panoramic vistas, sloping clay cliffs, plenty of deer sightings, and fields of wildflowers blowing in the wind.

But not everything was so rosy. Within the first three miles, hikers had to traverse mighty “Roaring Brook” stream. Although “babbling” would be a more appropriate moniker, Mr. Veno and land bank director James Lengyel generously rolled up their pants, disposed of their socks, and waded into the calf-deep water to offer intrepid hikers a helping hand.

“Everyone took it in stride,” Mr. Veno said.

Mother son team of Patty and Emmett Favreau get ready to spend the day outdoors together. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Most walkers were seasoned, often grizzled veterans, not just of the cross-Island hike, but of the Island’s trails themselves. Judy Maynes was on her 20th cross-Island hike, while others claimed to have completed nearly 30. Although Felice Shapiro of Katama was only on her fourth, she viewed it as the unofficial launch of summer and loves to feel like part of the community.

That community included Allyson Malik of Oak Bluffs, who has a lot of experience with long hikes. For her honeymoon, she walked north from Inverness through the Scottish Highlands, traveling nearly 17 miles each day for several days. But it wasn’t the memory of Scotland that brought her to Menemsha on Saturday. It was the memory of her father, who committed suicide five years ago, she said. To try and come to terms with the event, Ms. Malik attended a Suicide Awareness walk in Washington D.C. Saturday was the five-year anniversary of that 18-mile trek through the nation’s capital, and Ms. Malik thought it would be appropriate to commemorate it with the similar-length walk.

“It’s not often that I get to spend 17 miles outdoors, thinking about my father,” she said.

Upon finally reaching Blackwater Pond the community of hikers was ready for a well-deserved rest. This included the hike’s youngest finisher, nine-month-old Maisie. The only difference was that Maisie had paws, not feet, that needed tending to.

Lunch break at Polly Hill in West Tisbury. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Those who made it to the end had no trouble finding a ride home. After a long day on the trail, drivers were more than happy to offer seats to people who were strangers only eight hours earlier. It speaks to the power of spending a day in nature, and the mutual appreciation for the Vineyard that can bring Islanders of all generations together.

Next year the hike will begin where this one ended, at Blackwater Pond.

“We’ll see where it finishes,” added Mr. Veno.

Regardless of location, it will surely provide walkers with lasting memories, both in their heads and their knees.

More pictures from the hike.