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Which road to take?

I begin the trip Saturday morning back to Dryden, New York, where my truck has been parked on a farm for the past nine days.

I hope to hitch a ride from Montrose, PA to Vestal, NY. There some folks I met while passing through Owego will pick me up and shuttle me further. If I can get to Candor, I’ve been promised a ride the last leg up to Dryden.

As a traveler, such kindness of strangers and new friends is essential when trying to walk 70 miles to understand a place as dynamic as the Marcellus gas fields.

As a reporter, too, I count on so many people to share their stories. I was aware when setting out that I wanted to here many views of gas development. There is no debate that drilling and the industrialization that follows has massive impacts on the natural terrain and the communities that live there. But it is striking how differently people see the costs of those impacts.

Now that I have completed this second walk across a landscape being redefined by the fuel beneath the surface, I realize what a broad range of views I encountered, nuances deepening the two main sides of the debate: to drill or not to drill?

During the eight days of my walk, I was hosted by local residents, either camping on their land or sleeping in their homes. The breakdown of my hosts’ views:

Day One: Anti gas development
Day Two: Pro gas development
Three: Anti
Four: Pro
Five: Anti
Six: Pro
Seven: Anti
Eight: Pro

There is much more than for or against, of course, and I will be exploring that in deeper stories in the months ahead.

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