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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

The Gay Dating Game.

Grindr. Scruff. Tinder.

These three magical apps are perhaps the most active on my phone these days. I use the term magical loosely. As a single guy, looking for love requires more than just seeking a one time hook up at a local gay bar. Looking for love requires you to do your research. It has to be more than just a pretty face. Though that doesn’t hurt.

Since becoming single, I’ve been on numerous dates. So much so, I feel like I’m on ABCs “The Bachelor”, and I’m the one handing out roses. I must have gone through more than two dozen. Thank goodness for an over abundance of flowers in the world.

Some dates have been exceptionally well. I’ve seen just about every walk of life. A doctor, a lawyer, a television meteorologist, even the boy next door. (Litteraly. That was a mistake. We’ll just leave him next door.)

For the most part, there is a trend in my dating game; I am in search of a man. Not a boy. Not a college student. Not someone who can’t support themselves. A man. Someone that is established in life and has future goals and ambitions, and knows just how to reach them. While it’s nice to play around occasionally, as I approach my thirties, it is time to start thinking about settling down. My twenties were the years to experiment. I have done more than I would love to publicly admit! No regrets, however. Life is full of experimenting until you find your comfort zone.

The gay dating game is a little different than that of the straight dating game. Straight people don’t hook up nearly as much. Gays love sex. I mean, we’re guys. Wasn’t that obvious? When you’re searching for love, this gets a little harder. One simple log on to Grindr and your screen lights up with notifications with people asking if you’re “Looking?” or “Hey, what are you into?”. Good grief.

Some people that I have met actually have a fantastic head on their shoulders and aren’t always looking for just sex. As soon as I interact with these gentlemen, my heart instantly melts and there’s a sigh of sudden relief. Could it be someone actually wants something with substance?

It’s unheard of in the community these days, but once you find it, you don’t want to let it go. If you do, you are foolish. After spending so much time on the gay dating apps, I can’t express enough how people in our community need to think with their head, and not the one that is below the belt.

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A Singles Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is on its way. I would normally be jumping out of my skin at this point since I’m naturally a very generous person, especially around a holiday aimed around generosity and appreciation.

This year, not so much. As someone who is recently single, the focus has been primarily on me, and not so much on any partner that I have. It’s an odd feeling. One I am certainly getting aquatinted to all over again. It’s a process, and it’s one that is taken one day at a time. We’ve all been there.

I mainly rely on friends to occupy the time, not because I’m seeking attention, but because they are the foundation of my life and my support system. Where would we be in life without good friends and a good bottle of wine? We would be slaving our day away stomping grapes and drinking the fruits of our labor in self pity and sorrow, that’s where. It’s great to have people producing this stuff for you so you can enjoy a couple of bottles in good company. Yes, a couple.

So, what are my intentions this Valentine’s Day, you ask? Focusing on the self for starters. You cannot love others without putting yourself first and foremost. It is imperative that you take the time out to enjoy the skin you’re in. If you don’t have the ability to fall in love with yourself, then your love for others isn’t as significant. There has to be a balance. It’s the way of life.

I’ll also be spending time in good company. I’m looking forward to it. There’s people in your life that truly make you who you are, and it’s important to spend as much time as you can around the people that bring value to your life. What better day than Valentine’s Day to show a little appreciation.

If there’s anything being single has taught me, it is that I don’t constantly need a man to make me happy. I am happy. I am happy with the people that surround me. Life is grand, and it’s just getting started all over again.

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Get Massaged into a Better You.

Have you ever really been in need of a massage? I’m sure you have. After all, many of us live high demanding lives that causes an increased amount of stress on our bodies.

I booked a massage this past week at my local Massage Envy, noting that I have a monthly membership. After a solid week on the slopes up in Vermont, my body was yearning for a treatment!

I decided on a hot stone massage. My therapist assured me that this would release a great deal of tension in the body as well as help to unwind the mind. Fair enough. After a long vacation away from reality, it was nice to be soothed back into the real world again.

The stone massage was amazing. It was everything that I had thought it would be. Hot stones rubbed along the body, along with a series of hot stones on my back and in between my toes. The feeling was absolutely sensational and relaxing.

Next up, a facial. I was in dire need of that. The rough winter skin has been sneaking up on me and causing absolute dryness. Absolute yuck.

My facial therapist and I really connected well. Maybe that was because she told me she would help me look about ten years younger. Anyone that tells you that, you’re going to become best friends!

The facial went extremely well. We diagnosed just how dry my face was, and worked to restore it back to its original shine. After about an hour of treatment, I was impressed. I kept looking in the mirror and wanted to touch my face to see if it was real. Sadly, I got told hands off! The oils on your fingers cause break outs. Duly noted.

Massage Envy offers an incredible experience to each guest, and I could not be anymore pleased with how this past session went. Not only is a massage great to release built up pressure in your body, it’s also great for mental health. Focusing on you and your body can really make you a better, more focused of a person. 

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In a Dry New England Winter, Killington Shines.

It’s no secret that this winter has been a dud here in New England. The lack of snow has caused many local skiers and snowboarders to flock west thanks to this years El Niño. One resort, however, has found a way to make the best of a bad situation.

Killington Resort, in breathtaking Killington, VT is a gem. It’s my second home, and I couldn’t be any more proud of what they have been doing this winter. A struggle to start, they have found a way to produce enough snow to satisfy the cravings of many. With nearly 100 trails open, skiers and riders have been able to enjoy an array of almost limitless adventures.

Arriving up on Wednesday this week, I shrieked like a school girl at the sight of a glorious mountain covered in snow. I instantly got out of my car, latched onto my skis, and hit the trails. With a hint of snow falling from the sky, the day was perfect as I carved down nearly every trail I could in a span of five hours. Conditions? Couldn’t ask for better. Was it a little icy? Yes, but icy conditions are typical for New England resorts. Plus, it really adds to the speed factor. I like speed. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

My adrenaline rush continued on day two as sunny skies softened up the snow a bit and even allowed for a little goggle tanning. Thursday was indeed a skiers paradise.

Indeed it has been a tough season, even Killington can admit to that. However, as New Englanders, we need to embrace what comes our way. No two seasons are ever the same here, and that is the true beauty of living here. Some of us just know how to make the best out of a bad situation, and Killigton Resort has been doing just that.

Sharpen up your skis and hit the hills. They need your support, and they would love to see you. After all, who couldn’t use a little fresh mountain air and some fine apres ski.

For more information about Killington, visit Killington.com or search #Beast365 on Instagram.



 

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The Brand Returns.

It’s been a while.

As I write this, I reflect back to the days I started writing. I was young. I was focused. My energy and passion for all things creative in life drove my writing business. So much so, it landed me several different gigs and multiple partnerships with media outlets. I was a proud young man.

Then, something happened along the way. Life. Life became more complex as I started to grow older and figure my own self out. While previously writing this blog, I was known as a young straight man. I concealed much of my own identity, and did not portray publicly of just who I am; a homosexual man.

During my time off from writing, I focused on my coming out. I’ve relished in new found connections, fell in love with the LGBT community and the endless parties, and even got a shot at love.

Today, I am proud to announce that I am back, and better than ever. Not only have I worked on finding out just who I truly am, I have also made leaps and bounds to move my personal life forward in the direction that I’ve always envisioned myself in, one of which starts with this website.

Mike Valletta. It’s more than just my name, it’s a brand. A brand I am proud to move forward into the future. I invite you all to join back in on the conversations with me as I continue to embark on an incredible journey of storytelling and photography along with future endeavors soon to be announced. (Hey, I can’t let all my secrets out.)

So, what is the brand today? The brand today is centered around the website, a direct link and staging ground. It’s where you’ll get your weekly digest of stories. Next up, we leap out to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (TheMikeValletta). These sites are considered live streaming, and a direct connection with fans.

As you navigate the site, you’ll notice many of the older articles are still in tact. Some like to leave the past behind, we’ll take the past with us. After all, it’s part of the journey, and a history. New articles will be appear on the site every Friday.

I’m sure you all want to know what’s next for the brand, you’ll just have to be patient. There’s a reason I’m calling it a brand these days. Stay tuned.

I hope all have been well. Let’s get the party started.

Mike Valletta

 

Photo Credit: Pholton Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One World Trade Center Grows as America Grows Stronger

I make a lot of trips down to New York City. Living within a close proximity to it here in Connecticut, we’re often referred to as one big suburb of the Big Apple. All it takes is a look around at how we drive to see just how true that is! When it comes to the road, we’re maniacs, and we get our behavior directly from the city that never sleeps.

It’s a great city, and we’re fortunate enough to live so close to it. Last week, I took a trip down to see the World Trade Center site down in lower Manhattan. I went along with my mother, and though we didn’t have a reservation, it was still fairly easy to get a free ticket from the visitors center to get into the memorial.

On April 30th, One World Trade Center, otherwise known as the Freedom Tower, became the tallest building in NYC, just a week after our visit. It’s quite remarkable to hear that. Many doubted we would we build that high again, but we proved to those who terrorized us that we are not afraid and refuse to live in fear.

During our visit, we entered the memorial with chills. As we walked towards the pools of flowing water cascading into the earth where the towers once stood, all we could visualize is what happened there back on September 11th, 2001. The horror of those two towers collapsing was in the back of my mind as I looked up to the sky and then back down into the pool surrounded by the names of those who perished.

I remember that day. I remember it well. I was sitting in English class at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, CT. Our teacher turned on the television and the entire class stared in shock and awe of what we were witnessing on screen. At first, it was like a movie, but we soon realized this was real. This was 9/11. We watched as the second plane hit the tower. We watched as the towers came crumbling to the ground, and those below scrambled to save their lives.

Images of that day all came back to me during the visit. It was hard. Very hard. Knowing that so many innocent lives perished on the very ground we stood on was not easy acknowledging.

As we walked around the memorial, we saw visitors who wept, then we saw visitors who didn’t know what kind of expression to wear. It was a silent place, not many voices to listen to other than the bustling sounds of lower Manhattan. My guess is many were lost in thought just as much as I was.

It’s great to have a place to go to where will never forget the images of that very day. It’s clear that New York will never be the same, but in the end, the height of the Freedom Tower signifies just how much stronger we have become.

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Spring is in the Air!

I can’t say enough about the weather this week. As much of a skier as I am, this spring like weather has indeed hit a sweet spot with me. As if there were much of a winter around here anyways, right mother nature? I swear, she has really been some kind of mother this year, not much of one to me! I’ve been begging and begging for snow, dancing my legs off into extreme amounts of pain, only to get a mere few inches that’s gone the next day. Not exactly the kind of snow I was dancing there for oh mother of mine high in the sky!

I’ve made the most of whatever winter we did have. I skied endlessly up north most days in the northern Berkshires and in the Green Mountains of Vermont. This week, however, has made me start getting in shape for my next sport of choice; mountain biking. Yes, from skiing to biking, I’m all about conquering those mountains in some kind of form! I’ve been at the gym faithfully all week long working one on one with my personal trainer who’s getting me in shape for post ski season. There’s a specific line of workouts dedicated to getting you ready for the next season. As a professional skier, its important to maintain good shape.

Today, my personal trainer kicked me square out of the gym. With temperatures climbing close to seventy degrees, and noting that I had already been at the gym for little over three hours, I was kicked to the great outdoors to enjoy an afternoon of mountain biking around Burr Pond in Torrington. Ever been there? It really is quite the place this time of year. For starters, its not as busy as it during the summer months. The tranquility will really reel you in, and so too will those gusty winds kicking about. Burr Pond is one of my favorite Torrington destinations. You can’t beat bliss!

I drove around the entire park trail today which encompasses all of Burr Pond. Normally, this run would take me at least a good 45 minutes, today well over that considering we are in mud season here in the Berkshires! Mud is everywhere from the recent snow melt. Riding through the mud isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, its quite entertaining as you’re kicking up the mud and trying to dodge boulders at the same time. I believe I already painted the picture for you of just how entertaining it could be!

So, as all of us around here throw open the windows and gear up for spring, lets not forget to venture out to some awesome Litchfield County destinations to get in touch with the great outdoors again. After all, with the winter we had, we deserve it!

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Discovering the “Y” in Yoga

“Stretch to downward facing dog!” snaps the instructor on my Gaiam Yoga DVD. “Bend farther down!” he continues to bark. “Now, bend even farther, and breathe.” he says so calmly when I’m in the toughest physical position in my life!

There’s just something about Yoga. Most people recommend it. They say it’s most likely one of the most vital physical activities you could partake in. Well, that phrase was all my personal trainer needed to hear when she ordered me to start Yoga twice a day at home. (Are personal trainers hired to kill you?)

“Breathe, just breathe. In and out, feel your breath.” that lovely voice from the DVD says. Yeah, I’ll feel my breath, if I can catch it first!

It’s been nearly a week since I began my now daily yoga routine, once in the morning before work, and then again right before bed. I’ve got to tell ya, the AM Yoga is the one I look forward to the most. As soon as I hop out of bed, I don’t reach for the cell phone or flock to the coffee pot, I run right over to my Yoga mat and begin the half hour exercise. After about two hundred or so in takes of oxygen, twenty or so different stretches, and one deep meditation session, I can’t believe how awesome I feel afterwards. I feel wide awake, without the coffee! Not only that, but I feel eerily calm, and for those who know me, you know I suffer from ADD so calm is usually not in my vocabulary!

As I go throughout my day, I continue to feel revitalized and refreshed. It’s like some sort of super charge. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but I know I’m in a good place, even after I get barked at in the morning by some instructor who bends into pretzel figures so calmly!

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The Cow Story: A Secret to Happiness

People often ask me, “Mike, why are you so darn happy all the time?”. I often come back with the response of “Why, should I be miserable or something?”. It’s a question that is posed to me everyday. Some wonder if it’s the gallons of coffee I drink a day.

Sorry, it’s not the coffee, though I guess it helps. There’s no wonder drug I take either. There’s no such thing as happy pills, nor do I plan to market such an item in the future. If you really want to know why I’m so happy, spend a day in my shoes.

I’m naturally an easy going person, that’s a given. Not much bothers me. In fact, there was once a cow who sat right in the middle of the road on my way to work and had me running behind for about fifteen minutes. Most people would be angered. I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. I mean, how often can you tell your boss you’re going to be late because a cow is your traffic jam.

You see, I remain a pretty positive person because of the way that I see things. It’s all a thought process. Oh sure, I could have chosen to yell out a few choice words at that cow, but do you honestly think that cow would have understood a word I said? No! That cow would have just starred at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I don’t speak cow! Instead, I sat and laughed all about the scenario. Yelling would have just stressed me out, but not that cow. No way.

Being perpetually happy isn’t hard work at all. You just have to adjust your thought process. Why should we be negative all the time? Where is it going to get us? Well, for starters, it’s going to give us a one way ticket to the emergency room. Stress kills, but laughter is the best medicine. Nice connection there, right?

We only live once, and it is up to us to live the life that we want. Should we walk around pouting that we have to go to work, or that we have to do other things that we don’t enjoy doing? Not at all. Think about this for a second. Many of us don’t enjoy going to work. We whine all about Monday. What if we changed our thought process. Work pays the bills, which otherwise wouldn’t be able to be paid without a job, then we’ll be begging to work. See! I totally just changed the thought process, and just like that, instant happiness about going to work.

I challenge you to become a better you. I challenge you to change your thought process. Life is what you make of it. Will you be the one yelling at a cow that doesn’t understand you?

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Explore the Great Outdoors, Indoors!

It’s cold. Period. There’s no question in my mind that the place to be is indoors, but am I really the type of person to just stay in my home all day hibernating my life away from the elements? Not at all!

Today, I took a ride out to Cabella’s in nearby East Hartford. Cabella’s, for those of you who don’t know, is the worlds foremost outfitters specializing in outdoor essentials. The store is large and packed with wall to wall merchandise for the outdoorsmen at heart. Everything from hunting equipment to fishing boats and ski jackets can be found in this paradise.

That’s not all. If you’re looking for a day trip to a museum, think Cabella’s! Inside, you’ll find an aquarium packed with some of the largest trout you have ever seen. It’s like spending the day at an aquarium, and the best part about it, it’s absolutely free! Not only can you can you catch a glimpse of fresh water fish, but you can also explore stuffed wildlife statues that will have you thinking you just made a trip out west to the mountains.

In the mood for a hearty meal? Cabella’s has you covered. Sit back and relax as you dive into fresh venison or pulled pork with Cabella’s very own cafe.

If you ever thought a day trip was out of reach, think again. Cabella’s has everything for the perfect day out with the entire family. A store so large, you could not only spend a whole day there, but you could also get lost!

For more information, visit: http://cabelas.com/cabelas/index.do

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The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Covering The Dew Tour

This has got to be one of the best weeks of my life. Not only will I be making my way up to Vermont to check out Killington Resorts winter Dew Tour, I’ll also be covering it!

You see, it all started when an email came to my inbox last week asking if I would like to be a brand ambassador for AT&T at the Dew Tour. AT&T has this cool new tablet from Pantech called the Element, which is essentially like apple’s iPad but waterproof, and they’re looking for people who are social media savvy to give it a whirl at the hottest event in the east.

I just couldn’t say no. The opportunity was much too large to pass up. An all expense paid trip to Vermont AND I get to try out this awesome tablet? An opportunity like this only comes once in a lifetime, and I know I would be kicking myself if I turned it down. It’s like a dream come true!

I’ll be at Killington on the 19th and 20th covering the event live using AT&T’s Element tablet PC. While there, I’ll be using the tablet to capture pictures and video of all the hottest athletes in action, plus even get a few interviews with some of them!

I’m not exactly sure what to expect. It’s a huge deal. I’m eternally grateful for all of it. As they say, all good things come to those who wait. I’m a patient person, but I can’t tell you how much I just want Thursday to be here already!

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Litchfield County Gets a Taste of Winter, Finally

Remember last year when we were buried up to our eyeballs in snow? We would often reference our homes to igloos as we mingled with other Eskimos who braved the elements that was the winter of 2011.

This year, exact opposite. After a shattering Halloween snow storm that left many stranded and without power, snow storms have been far and few in between. In fact, it’s even been rather spring like without people even going as far as to lay out on their decks and sunbathe, in January!

Well, it seems mother nature has finally come to her senses, maybe. We’ve already figured out that she’s in need of a mental evaluation, but now I think she remembers it’s January.

This morning, many of us in Litchfield County woke up to a few inches of of snow, enough to make us realize that it’s still the dead of winter. It’s a nice gesture, but I’m worried about what kinds of tricks mother nature has up her sleeve now that she realizes she has forgotten about Connecticut this winter!

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Daffodil Hill Offers a Sea of Daffodils

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Last night, I was watching one of my trusted news sources, NBC Connecticut, and as I was watching I happened to notice that they were airing a story that took place here in Litchfield County. I was all ears. Anything to do with the local area I immediately want to know about, even if I already know about it! This story, however, I hadn’t known about and I was very excited that I was learning of a new place to discover, and what a place it was indeed. Located in the sprawling countryside in between the rolling hills of Litchfield and Thomaston lies a place called Daffodil Hill which is known to be quite the magical place this time of year as a sea of daffodils take front and center and sprawl themselves across quite a few acres of property that eventually lead to a majestic countryside pond. Daffodil Hill is fairly easy to get to as it lies right off of Route 254 at a place called Laurel Ridge Farm. It is here where people of all ages come to enjoy the beauty that is Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills and it is also here where many photo enthusiasts both professional and non-professionals, come to take in the sights as they work their lenses and capture everything that this landscape has to offer.

It had been my first visit to Daffodil Hill and I was in awe of what lay in front of me. This sea of daffodils came complete with rolling hills, a majestic pond, and a slew of rock walls that bordered the property. This was paradise to me as I can literally sit here for hours on end capturing the essence of daffodils through the lens of my iPhone, which amazingly takes fantastic pictures which you can see for yourself in this column. As I walked through the field and down the hillside, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how special life really is. So often, many of us take it for granted but when you see sights such as this it’s easy to get lost and bask in the glory of life.

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A lifetime's exploration

Geysir, geyser, water, geothermal, Iceland

Wandering the geyser area of Geysir in the Southwest of Iceland is like walking across another world. Steam wisps up from hot pools of perfect turquoise water, puddles bubble away heated by the Earth’s core and huge vents of H20 blast out of the ground every few minutes.

Waiting for the Strokkur geyser to blow feels like being a kid again; the anticipation of seeing something so unusual, the excitement of watching the huge bubble swell up from the ground and then shoot 20ft into the sky is exhilarating, and I let out a big cheer and laugh with all the other young-at-heart spectators as the water is sucked back into the seemingly bottomless hole.

We stood and watched it go a couple of times, roughly blasting off every three to five minutes, and then the geyser went up another three times all at once! It was spectacular and unexpected…

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TribeVibe

Roster

According to Nick Swisher, Monday’s filming of the Tribe’s Harlem Shake video was “Bring your own costume Monday!” And boy did he and his teammates ever. Here is the roster of the downright ridiculous costumes on display in the Tribe Town 216 edition.

Parrot: Jason Kipnis (costume courtesy of Vinnie Pestano)

Ohio State football star: Nick Swisher

Green man: Jason Giambi

Big baby: Terry Francona

Prisoner: Sandy Alomar, Jr.

Camo man: Mark Reynolds

Human bear: Justin Masterson

Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunne (from “Dumb and Dumber”): David Huff & Chris Perez

Mario: Lonnie Chisenhall

Two Luigis: Mike Sarbaugh & Brian Jeroloman

Nerd: Michael Brantley

Flamingo wrangler: Cody Allen

Reno 911! cop: Ubaldo Jimenez

Hot dog with beard: Nick Hagadone

Disco man: Carlos Carrasco

Ironman: Drew Stubbs

Scarecrow: Trevor Bauer

Mummies: Juan Diaz & Michael Bourn

WWE wrestler: Brett Myers

Two Gumbies: Mike McDade & Scott Barnes

Two Easter bunnies: Rich…

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Broken Light: A Photography Collective

Photo taken by a woman who has suffered from severe depression. She hopes that by telling her story that she will help fight stigma, and help people to understand things like self-harm that seem so hard to understand. She would also like to help other people suffering to feel less alone, and maybe even share the spark of hope.

About this photo: “It took me fifteen minutes of searching through every drawer in my house, but I finally found the one piece of orange clothing that I have. I’m wearing orange in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day. I know every day is some other awareness day, but this one happens to mean a lot to me. As someone who has been down the path of self-harm, and had people I love dearly who have been there, I feel terribly and empathize for all who are suffering enough to self-harm…

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Summer, Where Are You?

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There’s no doubt that this has been a long winter for us in New England. The days were cold. The nights were even colder. The snow was, well, let’s not even talk about the snow. The fact of the matter here is, that sometime after forty inches, we grew anxious for spring to come, and quite frankly what was another couple of inches on the ground this past week in Connecticut to top things off.

Yes, winter. A season we all love to hate. As a skier, however, I usually live for winter! Not so this season as I was out due to a medical condition. Oh sure, it was great to look at, but now I know just how all you snow haters feel; exhausted!

Like many, I got out to enjoy the tease that mother nature threw at us. Saturday was nearly fifty degrees and Sunday was nearly sixty! All this after having a foot of wet snow dumped on us on Friday. I mean really, I don’t know what that nutcase we call a mother was thinking. Clearly she just needs to be medicated and thrown into rehab. Actually, a padded room sounds more justifiable.

I took a walk around the trails here at home in Torrington. Burr Pond offers a fantastic setting if you’re looking to unwind and unplug a bit. A nice trail that, unfortunately was still very snow covered, ropes around the entire length of the pond and offers some pretty fantastic views of the area from it’s upper slopes. I do this walk quite often, though due to my condition as of late, I’ve had to make sure I bring along a hiking partner in the event that I collapse…in the snow. Thanks, mother nature. Natural padding. I get it. You’re looking out for my best interests. You can stop though, really.

On the horizon, however, there’s talk of more snow for next week. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Am I the only one dreaming of summer nights on the beach with a tent and a bonfire? That day still seems so distant.

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