“The wind is going to be a challenge today,” said Brendan O’Neill to the more than 50 people who had gathered at the Aquinnah Beach parking lot on Saturday afternoon.

The group was getting ready for the first of this season’s guided winter walk series offered by the Vineyard Conservation Society. The location of the first walk of the season was significant as VCS celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“It was the VCS in one of our first initiatives that won the national landmark status for the Gay Head Cliffs,” said Mr. O’Neill, executive director of VCS. “This was a program initiated in 1962 by the department of the interior. We applied for it working with members of the tribe and our then executive director Bruce Blackwell, who made this happen.” The Cliffs earned their designation in 1965.

Brendan O'Neill, executive director of VCS, led the walk. — Alison L. Mead

In the summer of 1966, VCS hosted Secretary Stewart Udall when he came to the Island for the dedication. VCS recently found a photograph from that event that was taken by Walter Delaney, which Mr. O’Neill shared with the group.

Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee member Mary Elizabeth (Mitzi) Pratt was on hand at Saturday’s walk to give an update on the lighthouse.

“I’m so impressed that you are all out here in these conditions,” she said. “We are right on schedule to move in April of 2015. We were just up there in a meeting and we’ve raised over $2.2 million of our $3 million goal. But we still do need help, so tell your friends to buy lighthouse mugs for Christmas gifts.”

Also on the walk was former VCS executive director Bob Woodruff. An amateur geologist, Mr. Woodruff provided information about the forming of both the Island and the layers of the Cliffs.

As the group prepared to head down to the beach, Mr. O’Neill gave a pep talk. “The thing about these walks is that we like to walk,” he said. “We are going to stop only a few times because we have to stay warm.”

Hardy walkers braved strong, cold winds. — Alison L. Mead

With winds blowing up to 27 mph, the group had a tailwind in their favor as they walked along the beach, stopping briefly as Mr. Woodruff pointed out features of the cliffs. “Come over here for a second folks, look at this black layer,” he said as hot cider and cookies were distributed.

Much of the group turned back halfway through the hike as the wind kicked up.

“Look, you can’t even see all of our footprints in the sand anymore,” said one walker as the last of the group headed back, shielding their faces from blowing sand.

“Seven years ago we did this and it was blowing snow,” said Linsey Lee. “This is a piece of cake compared to that.”

Winter walks are held once a month through March 2015. For the schedule, visit vineyardconservation.org.