Cindy and Matt have a love affair with the Blue Hills… and become Blue Hills Champions!
Interview by Michael Morgan
Dedham residents Cindy Gillan and Matt Hickey are long-time supporters and users of the Blue Hills. Matt is a lifetime resident of the area while Rhode Island native Cindy made her way here after stops in Charlestown and West Roxbury. Celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year, Cindy and Matt had one of their first dates, climbing Big Blue a few years before their wedding. While they may not call this Reservation “the Love Trail”, they are happy to talk about their love and support for the Blue Hills.
If you love the Blue Hills and want to care for it, please give monthly… and become a Blue Hills Champion!
What is your favorite thing to do in the Blue Hills?
Cindy: Hike! Buck Hill is one of our favorite trails and we like the triangular portion of the Skyline Trail, which we call the Dorito Trail. We’ve also done snowshoeing there maybe 10 or 15 times, but obviously not this year with no snow.
Matt: I like the footpaths along the bigger trails. I also like to identify the various flora and fauna we see along the way.
Why do you support the Friends and what made you decide to be a Champion?
Matt: We spend so much time here: hiking, running, taking lots of pictures. During the pandemic we were here all the time. We want to give back.
Cindy: It’s easier to pay an amount each month. We were both out of work during parts of the pandemic but now we’re both working again. So, it’s something we can afford to do, paying $10 or whatever a month and it’s like self-record keeping.
When did you first hear about the Blue Hills?
Matt: I grew up around here. I remember as a little kid climbing up the ski run (in summer) then getting yelled at for wanting to run back down. I also liked the otters at the Trailside Museum.
Cindy: We had a date there early on and hiked to the top of Big Blue. The views were so impressive, wandering around (high up) and looking down at people like they were little ants.
Matt: I’ve always been impressed with how accessible and rugged (the Blue Hills) are at the same time. You might think you are in New Hampshire or Vermont but then you hike down into the parking lot.
When you think of your time in the Blue Hills which memory stands out the most?
Cindy: We entered the Friends of Blue Hills raffle for dinner at the top of the Blue Hills a few years ago and we won. That was the best thing ever… The dinner, the views, and we went inside the weather station. There were six of us. We’d like to win again, and we could invite different people next time.
Matt: The weather station was amazing, to see the same tools they used a century ago.
When did you first hear of the Friends of the Blue Hills? How long have you been a member?
Cindy: There really wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment. Probably from other visitors. We’ve been members for about ten years.
Would you talk a little about the other Friends of the Blue Hills’ activities you’ve been involved with?
Cindy: We’ve done the Winterfest. We’ve hiked up the ski trail when you could see the sun and the moon at the same time.
Matt: We attended the Citizen Science Program and gone orienteering. We’re here two or three weekends out of the month.
Cindy: We’re interested in some of the other activities (sponsored by the Friends). I’m also a part of a running club and we run here. We’ve run around Houghton’s Pond and on some of the other trails. We want to try and hike the entire Skyline Trail this summer.
If the Blue Hills were not protected and preserved, how might your life be different?
Cindy: We’re so lucky to live nearby. If this were not here, we’d have to spend a lot more time driving around to find a place. The Blue Hills is not like a park, or a baseball or soccer field (although those are part of the Reservation). It’s different when you go into the woods, when you see wildlife.
Matt: It is important to have greenspace to protect and preserve, especially here, when it’s right at our doorstep. We are here in all seasons. I’m a proponent of “there’s no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
Are there any other stories, thoughts or feelings you want to convey about why the Blue Hills are important to you?
Cindy: We’ve had a family tradition. Around Columbus Day every year, we would meet a bunch of cousins by the Trailside Museum, then hike the Red Dot Trail. Now it’s become more of an organized hike on New Year’s Day since we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve anymore. We call our family group the Blue Scouts.
If someone goes to the Blue Hills for the first time ever, what is the first thing they might think of. What would you tell them?
Cindy: I’d tell them not to limit themselves, to go up as high as they can. There are so many different areas to see; so many trails to explore. Some are challenging and there are some for different fitness levels.
Matt: I’d want to show them the variety of ecosystems here; from the boardwalk at Ponkapaog you see the marsh and the wetlands. Then when you get high up in the Blue Hills you see the pines, the granite outcroppings and all the areas around you.