On a trail that cut through the heart of the Vineyard, 120 hikers and six dogs set out Saturday for the 26th annual cross-Island hike. The trail wound its way through a 15.2 mile tour of conservation land, from the Maple trees and freshwater of Blackwater Pond to the scrub oaks and sandy shores of Sengekontacket Pond, before ending at the fabled Jaws Bridge in Oak Bluffs.

The event was hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to celebrate National Trails Day, which falls on the first Saturday in June. Over the years, the land bank has conserved over 3,100 acres across the Island, woven together through a series of paths, roads and ancient ways.

Bill Veno, senior planner for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and leader of the hike, has been responsible for planning the trail since 1998.

“We start the hike where we ended in the previous year to emphasize the continuity of the trail networks,” Mr. Veno said. “Each year we are working to expand the trail networks that have already been established.”

Mr. Veno has an affinity for the Island’s ancient ways, which have been in existence since long before the 17th century. Seven of these ancient ways, such as Great Swamp Road, were traversed by the group on Saturday.

This year's hike was mostly inland, but with the perfect ending: the Jaws Bridge. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Seasoned veterans and first timers of the cross-Island hike, hailing everywhere from West Tisbury to Eugene, Ore., followed the many paths through both conservation land and residential neighborhoods. Many recalled battle stories of hikes past and shared aspirations for hikes future.

Martha’s Vineyard historian and 12-time participant, Thomas Dresser, fondly remembered the unexpected thunderstorm in Chappaquiddick that delayed the event in 2010. He also remembered, slightly less fondly, last year's hike which kicked off with a three-mile leg through the rocky shore of Menemsha Beach.

Pam Goff, vice-chairman of the land bank commission, has participated in each annual hike, alongside her husband Clark Goff, since its inception in 1993.

“The trail is shorter this year, but we still got blisters,” Mrs. Goff said. “Our goal is to introduce people to different land bank properties they might not have known.”

Nancy Weaver, newly-elected land bank commissioner from Tisbury, underscored the achievement while passing through Weahtaqua Springs Reserve in Oak Bluffs.

“Isn’t this great? We’re in the middle of Oak Bluffs!” she exclaimed. “Who knew this was here?”

The trail cut mostly inland, and many hikers shared Ms. Weaver’s surprise at discovering a path they did not know existed and gained a new appreciation for the Island’s communal backyard.

Conservation land assistant Antone Lima commented on the “barrens habitat” of scrub oak, huckleberry bushes and pitch pines that are omnipresent on the Island.

“It seems common because it’s everywhere,” Mr. Lima explained. “But globally it’s actually pretty rare.”

At each of the five resting points along the trail, the group slowly dwindled down to the most dedicated hikers. Some traded the path for the road, hitchhiking back to their cars at the trailhead. Others couldn’t resist the opportunity to branch off towards their homes, which were a shorter walk than the end of the trail.

Upon reaching the big bridge in Oak Bluffs, only 52 hikers remained to sign Mr. Veno’s log that has recorded every hiker to walk the trail to completion over the last three years. Despite the overcast weather, a few ditched their hiking pants for swimming trunks and ended the pilgrimage with a well deserved jump off the bridge.

As for next year, Mr. Veno is not yet sure where the hike will end, he said. But he does know where it will start.

“Right here, in Oak Bluffs.”