2. Finding Marcellus

Marcellus Shale outcroppings look like this:

according to Wikipedia

according to a Pennsylvania Geological pamphlet.

There's all kinds of information online to lead you in its direction

There are even maps that tell you where every well has been drilled, or has been approved to be drilled
This was the worst news that I received from a map:
In Pennsylvania, the Marcellus is located between 4,000 - 7,000 feet underground. After several days of research, I found someone who knew of, and was willing to share, a location of an outcropping within a few hours of Philadelphia. 

The information came in an email containing little other than the map coordinates. Plugging them into Google and Bing's Mapping sites did this:
The hill on the top right is the site

Both Bing and Google had street-views, so I explored the area, figuring out where I could park, and where the best place to find mud might be.

It was a great site. Lots of loose material. Very likely to have silt that had washed down to the base that would be easy to collect. It was right on a roadside which was likely public land. There was a river nearby which might have clay deposits.

How exciting was this??? I rented a car, bought half a dozen buckets and headed off the next day.


Ordinarily, who would pass this juncture and look, care, or know what was towering over them? During this trip three hours had passed before I had arrived and started to care. This rock rarely surfaces, yet here it sits at an intersection of two major arteries.

 I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Tar black, dusted with rust and rubble, the brittle stone had crumbled so much that the ground level appeared as a heap of pebble. 

There was a grain - a movement in the surface that shifted the down and to the west.

Papery layers of the black stone fleck off and oxidize, turning orange, ocher, umber, and red.   

A continuous stream of trickling shards slid down the rock face - a constant sound in the background.  

Close to this large boulder, there was

this pile of shards.  An ex-boulder.

This video offers a sense of the physical qualities of the stone

Here you can see stones that have imploded, leaving black mounds of shale shards

This is what I came for. The soil is very hard when it's dry. It was fortunate that there was a muddy area where I could dig material that nature had already refined into small particles.