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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

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Litchfield County

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.

Therapy Through Nature in the Torrington Backwoods

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein

The recovery process since my motor vehicle accident has been a long one. Each day, there seems to be a new bump in the road of life. Through it all, however, I have found a great sense of therapy taking in the fresh air as I hike along the trails by my Torrington, CT home. It is here that I am surrounded by nothing but an ample forest and solitude. Hiking along the trails is something I normally do, though as of late it has allowed me to reflect on life and be thankful that I have been given yet another day to walk along the trails.

We take so much for granted. Waking up is not always guaranteed. We live such busy lives. We often forget to unwind and enjoy what we have around us before we simply lose out on the opportunity, then we live with the regret. I believe one of the biggest take aways from this whole experience has been to unwind. Stress plays a major factor in the disease. There’s just something so great about getting up in the morning and hitting the trail, each day seeing something totally new that you didn’t see the day before. These are the little things in life that make us smile, and often because we’re so busy, we don’t take the time out for ourselves to enjoy it.

So many of you have asked me what is my secret to remaining so strong in the recovery process. While there is no doubt this is one of the ways, I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by such great company on this road of life. Wether it’s going out to dinner, or sharing a few laughs together on social media, I feel truly blessed to have each of you in my life in some way, shape, or form. They say you are the company keep, and that couldn’t hold any more true.

When life comes at you fast, take the break you need. Go out and find yourself. There’s a whole world outside your door just waiting for you to explore, and here in the Torrington backwoods, the exploration has continued to help me remain positive while appreciating the present and looking forward towards the future.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

Happy in a Sad State

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Okay. So recently Connecticut has been labeled a sad state in terms of state rankings based on tweets. This study just so happens to come from one of the happiest states, Vermont. Now, generally I would agree whole heartedly about particular areas of Connecticut being just downright miserable. Those in the inner cities and larger metropolotian areas seem to be the most stressed out, and for good reason. Violence plagues those areas, but what about those of us in the rural corners of Connecticut, are we part of that equation at all?

Roughly about five years ago, I moved to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut for a change of pace. Life is slower in good old northwesten Connecticut. The people are generally friendlier, and life is anything but normal. In fact, my life has become much more entertaining and carefree thanks to that good old mountain attitude carried with some backwards ways of life. Life, at least in this part of Connecticut, is very much a replica of the happiest state, Vermont. We are surrounded by natural elements. Towering pines, flowing rivers, lakes with mountain vistas, and old world country stores where you can get a cup of coffee and chat with your fellow neighbors. The life I live, along with many others in this part of the state, is a happy one.

With low crime rates, an abundance of fresh air, and a life of calm and peace, we are far from the least happiest people on the face of this earth. I would welcome the people who did this survey to reconsider their stance on labeling a state as happy or not happy. Just because one particular area has an infestation of negativity, does not necessarily mean thier attitude represents the state as whole. In fact, you may want to ask our city slicker weekenders why they bother coming up here if it’s such a horrible place to be. I’m sure they will be asking you what you mean by horrible. It’s downright gorgeous, and though we are a small state, we differ in so many ways.

Leave Inspired: How One Art Gallery in Torrington Plays a Big Role

What is it about art that seemingly takes us to a world away? Art is funny like that. We stare at it. Admire it. Laugh at it. Think about it. In the end, we get lost in it, and as we do we find ourselves almost in a parallel universe. Why, you could almost find yourself taking a mini vacation. Okay, but without the sound effects.

There’s one artist I really admire, even to this day. He’s the Norman Rockwell of Litchdield County, Connecticut. He’s an inspiration to my dreams and he’s very much an inspiration to all. Joe Kopler, based right in the rural city of Torrington, Connecticut is a small town man with a big heart, and his work reflects it.

Joe has an art gallery located right in his home, a bit unique, but once you spend time there you will suddenly find yourself getting motivated to go out and do the things you inspire to do. Quotes such as “Time is a river, you can choose to ride the positive river flowing through life or you can choose to fight the current struggle to stay in place.” blanket his art gallery.

Joe is a positive vibe for Torrington, as well as Litchfield County. His art inspires. He even inspires me to continue writing this blog, and to keep doing the things I love! (Wow, art does all that?)

You’ll notice something a little different about Joe’s work, however. He isn’t your everyday artist. His art is sculptured, almost three dimensional so it’s as if you’re really there in the painting! I have a few hanging up on the walls at home, and after a long day at work, it’s great to come back home and get lost in his paintings. I love to just sit back on the couch and let my imagination run wild.

More recently, Joe’s artwork has been helping me to recover. I was in an accident back in December and I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. Glancing up at his paintings and dreaming about far distant places has been very theraputic. I can’t say that about many artists.

So Joe, thank-you. Thank-you for creating the wonderful works of art that you do. Thank-you for continuing to inspire me, and many others, to become better people. I couldn’t have done it without you and your art. Thank-you, for being you.

For more information, check out his website!

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Battening Down the Hatches

Living at or above 1,000 feet is often a joy, especially during the winter time when the snow really piles up. During the fall, the views are picturesque. During a hurricane, nothing is all that joyous!

The talk today has been how bad the winds from Sandy are going to be, especially at the higher elevations like we have here in Litchfield County. The talk of 60-80 mph gusts throughout the duration of the storm will have anyone at high altitudes shaking, and with the amount of trees that surround us, well you get the picture. It’s going to be scary!

Power outages are a sure thing. Already prepared for that by stocking up on candles and the essentials. We’re now less than 48 hours from impact. Many of us have already battened down the hatches. All that is left to do is wait. If the forecast plays out exactly as it is planned, then Litchfield County will be spared the significant rains, but won’t be spared the damaging winds. Much of my property has been cleared off. Oh, how I wish I lived in a field without trees around though.

Remember, get prepared for the worst. Not that the worst will happen, but it’s better to be safe then sorry. Spend the day today gathering last minute things and connecting with friends and loved ones. We’ll get through this!

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Litchfield County Foliage Fades Away, With a Bang

You know, I just love it. I love the changing of the seasons, particularly at home in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Tonight before work, I took a little drive up through Norfolk then back down into Winchester Center and eventually making my way back home to Torrington.

Why did I do this? Well, I’m all about clearing my head before and after a long night of work and this certainly helps this process, and tonight was no different, but there was just something about tonight that made it more worthwhile. Perhaps it was the gorgeous sunset as it pierced through the now bare trees. Maybe it was the clouds that made it feel like a late November night, or maybe, it was the beauty of the pastoral countryside we live in on a superb autumn day in New England.

Whatever it was, I just couldn’t help but to snap up a few quick pictures from the breathtaking views. Could you blame me?

Falling Back into Fall: New England’s Best Season

Ah, here it is all over again. Crisp mornings followed by sun drenched afternoons that seem to radiate even more with the vibrant colors of the leaves on the trees. Fall is upon is and is in full swing here in my little corner of Connecticut, Litchfield County.

It didn’t take long for autumn to arrive. A couple cold nights and voilĂ ! The trees around the house are blasting with color and the warm scents of fall are in the air, including the heart melting aroma of wood burning furnaces and fireplaces as we keep warm during the chill of night.

Fall is a wonderful season isn’t it? There’s just something about it here in New England. Something special. Something, you just can’t quite put your finger on. Maybe it’s the pumpkin spice coffee you pick up from the coffee house in the morning, or that fresh made apple pie with just picked apples off the trees from the nearby orchards. Whatever it is, I like it. Nothing beats autumn in New England, and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone right now.

Today being the first day of October, I decided to take a little trip up to the north to go spend some time around my timeshare at nearby Jiminy Peak Ski Resort in the Berkshires. I haven’t been there since the last day of ski season. It was a breathtaking trip. The views were even more incredible than they are during the winter. The foliage was of course the added treat as the mountains played a harmony of music. Call me crazy, but I swear they were playing music, and no, it wasn’t Death Leopard or Rob Zombie.

On my journey, I snapped up a couple of gorgeous pictures. I’ve been to the area many times over, but for some reason every time you venture out there it just seems even more different, even more beautiful than the last.

I didn’t make an attempt to spend the night. I prefer to use my timeshare at the resort during ski season as much as possible rather than during the off season, but still, the trip was worth it! I even managed to stop and grab some dinner at Powder Hounds, which I might add has the best beers on tap. Octoberfest! It’s like a New England tradition.

Why You’ll Go Crazy for Being Lazy at Lazy Frog’s

This morning I was making my way back down to Litchfield County after spending the evening skiing in the Berkshires when I felt my stomach rumble. It had occurred to me that I completely skipped out on breakfast. Not good! For a little guy, I require large amounts of food to keep me satisfied. To be honest with you, I’m not quite sure where it goes. I’ve been exactly one-hundred pounds for the past five years!

So there I was, stopped at an intersection in Torrington wondering where to go for a bite to eat. I’m always on the go, and have a diet that portrays it. Restaurants just seem to be my life so of course it was only natural to try out something new in our neck of the woods, a quaint fast food joint in Morris called Lazy Frog’s.

Now, when you think fast food, you think McDonalds. Not so fast. This is Litchfield County. Any food that is fast food in the small towns has to portray our small town ways of life, and Lazy Frog’s has done just that.

Located at the old Webster Bank location in Morris, just off route 63, sits this barn like structure that is anything but just another hole in the wall restaurant. Lazy Frog’s is fast food with attitude cooking up some down home country cooking at budget friendly prices and inside a building that screams Litchfield County!

I decided that my first time here, I’d start off small. A cheeseburger with a side of fries. You just can’t go wrong with that great American combo, and for under six bucks, I was already satisfied. For starters, it’s better than traditional fast food and probably much healthier too. Fast food on the cheap, AND healthy? I think I’ve just landed in paradise!

Once my order was ready, I headed to their snazzy outdoor patio where I sat and watched the gently falling snow transform the landscape to a bit of white. I sat down, quickly unraveled the packaging of my food, and took my first bite of the cheeseburger. Delicious! Fries? Even better, they’re home fries just can’t be beaten!

When you think you’ve tried the best, there’s always someone new to come along to prove to you that you’re wrong, and Lazy Frog’s is clearly the new king of fast food joints in Connecticut.

For more information, check them out on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pages/Lazy-Frogs/228992523800703?id=228992523800703&_rdr

Snowshoeing in Northwestern Connecticut

What is it about snow that brings out the kid in you? It seems for me, each time it snows, a bit of childhood comes back with it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much, then again, I could just be wildly insane. Either way, when there’s a snow day to be had, you can be rest assured I’m out there enjoying every minute of it.

While most days I’m up in Vermont out on the slopes, this past Sunday morning I got to finally test out my snowshoes I had received for Christmas from my mother. Here in northwestern Connecticut, there’s plenty of places to explore, but considering it was 10AM and I had just got home from a long 12 hour overnight shift, I wasn’t looking to travel any further than right in my own backyard.

I decided to hit up the Still River Greenway in Torrington. While it’s a great place to walk and bike during the summer, it’s also the perfect place to snowshoe and cross country ski during the winter. Not too many people would think of a greenway to be a year round place of refuge, but indeed it is.

Parking my car at the entrance by Winsted, I strapped on my snowshoes and away I went. The trail isn’t maintained during the winter so snow is a guarantee after any snow storm we get. The surroundings were actually quite peaceful as not a soul was in sight, except for the random passing of vehicles on Winsted Road, of course, which isn’t exactly the harmonic sounds of nature, but none the less, a relaxing experience away from any hustle and bustle.

The best part about snowshoeing the greenway is that it’s flat. No need to try and manage your way around boulders or occasional tree roots that will have you falling flat on your face! As an inexperienced snowshoer, it’s probably not best that I attempt any of that just yet. I do need my legs to ski for the rest of the winter, otherwise I might just suffer winter depression like the majority of folks! Then again, that may stop me from doing anymore snow dances for the rest of the winter.

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