Pennsylvania Homecoming by Greg Soltys

Pennsylvania Homecoming by Greg Soltys

Photograph above: Greg Soltys on location at Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park. Photograph by Jen Britton.

I grew up in the Laurel Highlands region of Southwestern Pennsylvania in a small town called Latrobe.  The Laurel Highlands are a popular area for hiking, fishing, camping, mountain biking, downhill and cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities.  It’s also an area of stunning natural beauty.

Ferncliff Trail, Ohiopyle State Park.

I’ve not lived there for 35 years.  At 18 I left for college and then lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years before moving to Melbourne 5 years ago.  I’d wanted to go back to visit my mom in June 2020, but the pandemic put a halt to that.  Thankfully I had the opportunity to go for six weeks in June/July 2022.  I was keen to capture the landscape of my youth with my Chamonix 4×5 camera.  

Mill Creek Falls, Laughlintown.

Growing up there in the 70s and 80s all I could think about was getting out.  It was boring and slow.  But time and distance do make the heart grow fonder, and when I was there I felt like I’d never left.  I hadn’t realized how this landscape is so intrinsically part of me. 

Cole Run Falls, Forbes State Forest, Somerset County.

I didn’t mean for my visit to be a waterfall tour, but how could I resist?  

The “crick” the neighborhood kids used to play in now mostly exists in my memories.

In summertime the neighborhood kids played in the woods, caught crayfish in the “crick” down the road, and stayed out from morning until night.  I am so fortunate to have had those experiences.  Recently witnessing a night sky full of lightning bugs brought me indescribable joy.

Oneida Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park looks like the waterfall you’d order from a catalog.

A highlight of my visit was 3 days at Ricketts Glen State Park in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The Ricketts Glen Falls Trail boasts 21(!) named falls along its 8-mile loop.  I went with my mom and a college friend.  We only saw 7 of the falls, so plenty more left for next time.

Ganoga Falls stands 94 feet (28.6 meters) high and is the tallest waterfall in Ricketts Glen State Park.

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park. It used to be called Pulpit Falls due to the shape of the rock in the middle of the chute.

I took nearly 100 4×5 photos during my 6 week stay.  Some moments I couldn’t capture on a 4×5 camera, like a doe walking with her two fawns in the front yard, the birds chattering about the birdfeeder, or the swell of happiness in my heart just strolling through the woodlands.  I may live halfway round the world now, but Latrobe, Pennsylvania will always be home.

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum.
Kincora Trail, Kooser State Park, Somerset County
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia, State flower of Pennsylvania and namesake of the Laurel Highlands.

More of Greg’s photographs can be seen on his website.

Greg Soltys with 8×10 camera. Photograph by David Tatnall.
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Greg Soltys is a Melbourne based large format photographer.

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Luz at 5:15 am

    I lived in Philadelphia for over 30 years before moving out West. I always thought of Pennsylvania as a beautiful state, but had no clue about these water falls. What stunning photographs!

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