Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.


September 2011

Fall Foliage Update from the Litchfield Hills

This season is a far different one here in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills thanks to our friend Irene who passed through in late August. Usually for us, we still have many leaves on the trees come early October. This year, not so much. At least 20-30 percent of our trees have already lost their leaves, and while not exactly an impressive number by any means, it tells a story of what’s happening, and what’s happening…isn’t something we’re used to in this part of the country.

The leaves are tuning a modest rust color this year, instead of the ambient colors we are used to. Then, just as we think that’s bad enough, they are instantly dropping off causing trees to become bare rather quickly and in some areas of the county resemble what November is supposed to look like! Scary.

None the less, however, what foliage we do have to offer is pretty impressive. Just take a look at the pictures in this column. They are taken in the towns of Washington, Kent, and Cornwall. You’ll see exactly what I mean by trees going bare, and others offering a crisp autumn color. Usually, it depends on how high up you are in elevation to see the best colors. This year, also quite different as many valley areas have seemed to turn first thanks to the heavy rains from this past summer and the entrapment of cold air.

It’s an interesting fall here in the hills.

Leaf Peepers, Rejoice! A Foliage Update from the Litchfield Hills

In the back of my head, I hear that good old Christmas song “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year!” but it’s not because it’s getting closer to Christmas. I’m in no rush for that. No, this particular phrase of the song very much applies to wonderful colors of fall. In the world, there’s nothing else like it but right here in New England. How could anyone ever want to leave such a beautiful area? The warm colors put on a very vivid display this time each year, and here in the Litchfield Hills, it’s no different.

Autumn has arrived rather early for us thanks to our good friend Tropical Storm Irene who arrived in late August. Ever since, the leaves have really been changing rapidly. Our first frost came just last week as a matter of fact further enhancing the color as it races from the mountain peaks to the valleys below.

Driving around the county this past week, I can tell you that some areas are a hit or miss. There are still quite a few areas, especially in the southern county around the Watertown area, that have not yet had the magnificent display of colors we have been enjoying here in the northern hills, so there is still a great deal of time to take the drive up and take it all in. The colors here in the northern hills are also rather sporadic, you’ll get a few spots here and there that are loaded with color, then a mile away the leaves are just starting to turn. It’s the beauty of the season. It’s what leaf peeping is all about, the chase. The race to get the best pictures possible.

Some of the best colors I have seen this past week are in the Torrington area and points north. Absolutely stunning, especially around Goshen, Norfolk, and Colebrook. Take a spin on the backroads. Get lost! Don’t be afraid to take a random adventure on an old dirt road sipping a pumpkin coffee or a hot apple cider. Just make sure you wear orange if you decide to hike, hunting season starts in just a few more weeks. Venison anyone?

Facebook Shakes Up the Locals

They say we should embrace change. We should welcome it with open arms and cuddle it like a cute little teddy bear. Well, I’m not cuddling the new Facebook layout like some cute little teddy bear, and neither are many of you as we all woke up today to yet another change Facebook has created, this time with it’s newsfeed.

For those of you out of the loop, Facebook has now customized the way you look at your newsfeed, almost like a daily newspaper. You have your top stories at the top, which are those Facebook thinks you’ll find the most interesting, followed by the most recent status updates from your friends. Well, if Facebook really knew me like it says it does, maybe it should get to know itself a little better. My top stories are those that are actually bashing Facebook for this very radical change. I haven’t met a person yet today that has approved of it. In fact, some of you have even gone on to nickname Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Suckerberg! I can’t attest that I have actually thought these things, but I do come close.

As a social media guru who lives every moment of his life through social media sites, it’s important that I know how to use it all times. When Facebook went and did a 360 this morning, I was like a lost puppy! In many ways, my social media guru attitude is slowly becoming obsolete as the change comes without warning or without anytime for me to get familiar with the new changes. Not cool.

Yes, it will take time to get to know this new frontier we have all woken up to this morning, but can’t the people at Facebook wake up and hear us? We don’t want change. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Period. I believe I speak for the majority on this one.

Torrington Two Years Later

It was a crisp autumn day back in 2009 when I had decided enough was enough in downstate Connecticut and made my way to the scenic hills of northwestern Connecticut, specifically Torrington. Yes, in my twenties I gave everything up and moved to a place where most people would retire to! I’m not one for fast paced living and big flashy city lights. That’s not me at all. I’m not a flashy person, and I don’t like keeping up with the times. I like to be myself, and in Torrington, I can be who I want to be mainly because of our small town charm and easy living. Surprised to hear that from a twenty something today aren’t you? Most people in their twenties want the big city, but I’ve come to find peace in this small town where everyone is someone and everybody knows everybody.

It’s the friendly wave you get traveling through the rural part of town from a passerby that says something about the community we have all come to love. It shows what a caring community we really are, and it’s no wonder so many, including myself, have transplanted here and have made our own footprints as we work to build the next generation of Torrington. Many young people are actively involved in making positive changes around here. That’s not something you see everyday. That’s something you see only in a tight knit community, and Torrington is certainly rather tight knit. Really, haven’t you ever been to In Sheep’s Clothing downtown and seen the yarn?

In my two years here, I have seen a lot. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly, but for the most part it’s a great place to live because the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. Two years ago, there wasn’t much happening downtown. It was quiet. It was dark. It wasn’t the happening place to be! Today, a whole new story thanks to so many who have made Main Street Marketplace such a success, and thanks to those awesome Torrington Downtown Partners who are helping to fill up once vacant store fronts.

Not only are we becoming a more energized community, we are also decreasing the amount of energy we use. Literally! Have you driven around Torrington at night? New lights thanks to CL&P have been installed around town, and they’re called LED lights, a dim white light that replaces the old bright yellow lights. These lights use much less energy and have a positive impact on our surrounding landscape as well. Have you noticed that you’re able to see more stars in the sky whole you’re downtown? Thank those lights! The ambient glow is slowly fading away.

With all that energy saved, we ourselves are becoming more energetic as we take a stroll on Torrington’s very own Sue Grossman Still River Greenway. The greenway, located in the north end of town, is still very much still in the works as many are working hard to expand it into the downtown area. Three miles long, this greenway has helped to promote a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I use it myself and I’m constantly impressed to see how many people take advantage of it.

Two years. It may not seem like a long time, but it’s long enough to see the many changes happening in such a great community with a big heart. There’s no place like home, and no, I don’t mean Kansas.

Autumn Comes Early to Litchfield County

Editors Note: It’s been a while! Due to exciting last minute summer days, and Tropical storm Irene impacting the region, it has been a rather busy couple of weeks. Now, onto the show!

It wasn’t long ago that we were practically shoveling snow of our roofs. It also wasn’t long ago that we were thinking of relaxing summer days at the lake. Where oh WHERE did the time go? It’s after labor day, and judging by the looks of the trees, it’s already fall in Litchfield County! Before you know it, we’ll be scaring up game and placing turkeys on our dining room tables for Thanksgiving. Time just seems to fly on by when you’re having fun.

For me, this has been a summer to remember. Not only did I finally turn 25, but I’ve also had an incredible amount of interaction with friends and family while enjoying the great outdoors of the Litchfield Hills and beyond. Wether it was enjoying a day at Lake Waramaug in Kent, or biking the greenways of the Berkshires and New York’s Hudson Valley, there’s no one word to sum up the summer to remember.

As we close the chapter and turn the page onto the next season, we do so the good old New England way. We embrace it. Autumn seems to be everyones favorite season. The turning of the leaves, the apple pies, the apple cider from local farms, even the scent of the crisp autumn air puts the season into perspective. Just a few weeks ago, everything was a bright lush green. Now, those green leaves are giving way to a rust color and leaf filled streets.

There’s a number of ways we welcome the changing of the seasons, but as a yearly tradition for me, I start things off at home by sprucing the place up for fall. Autumn scented candles from Yankee Candle set the atmosphere while mums set the tone outside my home. Baskets of harvest floral arrangements further enhance my home along with a harvest dining room setting. I’m no Martha Stuart! I’m a guy, but I try my best to make my home a home and not a typical bachelor pad. There’s no beer signs here or wall clocks that make weird noises and light effects!

So, as we turn the page and welcome autumn, we should all take a moment to reflect on the good days of summer we all had. Memories are made. Even better ones are yet to come.

Happy Harvest!

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