Fifty of the Island’s muscle-powered trailblazers broke out their backpacks, hiking shoes, water bottles, sunscreen, and permethrin last Saturday for the 25th annual Cross Island Hike. The 25-mile trek is organized by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, and is a celebration of National Trails Day, which takes place every year on the first Saturday of June.
The all-day event began at a sunny South Beach at 8 am, where longtime hike leader Bill Veno welcomed new and returning faces. The group prepared for the eight-hour adventure that would take them to Edgartown, Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and end at Menemsha Beach. Participants could drop out and join in anywhere along the way.
“We’ll see how far I make it,” said first-timer Harry Hill while hiking one of the winding trails behind Morning Glory Farm. “I have my car parked at the West Tisbury School halfway point, just in case.”
The day was not only a celebration of Martha’s Vineyard trails, but also of unexplored corners in the company of friends, old and new.
“We’re discovering places in our own backyards that we didn’t know existed,” longtime Islander Felice Shapiro said. “It’s the perfect way to launch the summer when you haven’t seen your friends all year long.”
Mr. Veno said his favorite part of the event is exposing people to new routines. “We’re creatures of habit,” he said. “We have our favorite trails that we walk every day, but this event gets people thinking, ‘Gee, I’ve never been here before, and it’s right next door to me.’”
The hike stopped to regroup at various checkpoints where Mr. Veno and Land Bank executive director James Lengyel set up snacks and water for people to refuel. They’d stop for five to 10 minutes at a time before Mr. Veno blew the whistle and moved things along. He kept a quick pace in front, while Mr. Lengyel brought up the rear.
“For every one step Bill takes, the rest of us have to take three,” a participant on his 10th Cross Island hike said. Mr. Veno was on his 19th.
“We try to go places we haven’t been in awhile,” Mr. Veno said. “For instance, last time we started at South Beach was 20 years ago.”
Mr. Veno creates a master map for the event, which marks the trails, checkpoints, and time estimates of when the group will be where. He tries to mix things up so that people are hiking different parts of the Island each year. He often has to go out and make sure the trails still exist, and evaluate what condition they’re in. His job as an affiliate with the Land Bank is making new public trails.
“I talk with landowners to try to get trail access, so we can piece together some of the conservation properties without buying out the land in between,” Mr. Veno said. That’s why you’ll notice many of the public trails on-Island run through people’s backyards.
The map had the group marching through the thickly wooded Island, accompanied by constant chatter. The Times only made it halfway through, due to some significantly tired feet, sore muscles, and threatening clouds. But endless props to those who completed the Cross Island Hike — a serious accomplishment, and a celebration of the innumerable ways to see Martha’s Vineyard.
“How do I feel?” first-timer Rob Donovan commented. “I’m feeling like somebody who walked 12.2 miles in the sun without a hat.”