Saturday, December 31, 2022

Quantum Physics in a nutshell, part 2 of 3

Quantum physics addresses life's most fundamental questions with really simple answers, backed by straightforward scientific experiments and proven results.

A quick summary of lesson one put a different way than was presented in the video, is that "the mice only play when the cat's away". Physicists like to call it the 'Measurement Problem'. It is not actually a problem (except for Physicists who insist on trying to get something that they themselves have proven they CAN NOT have.)

Here in the second of three lessons, quantum physics solves the problem of 'God' i.e., the conundrum of "Infinite Regress vs. the Uncaused Cause". They exist together, in superposition. Just like pairs of quarks in a meson, you CAN NOT take them apart. The universe started from nothing because 'nothing' (a vacuum) is a roiling froth that is just brim-full of unrealized 'stuff'.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Quantum Physics in a nutshell, part 1 of 3

In the Theory of Quantum Mechanics 'things' have fields that extend everywhere; and 'things' do not even have properties until they interact with other 'things'.  It's all about the interactions.  Space and time themselves are just manifestations of the web of connectedness between things.

'Stuff' like our conscious mind exists only because of this connectedness.

The scientist's natural urge to take 'things' apart to find out how they work met its Waterloo when we discovered Quantum Mechanics.  A hundred years later the greatest minds still declare that "nobody really understands it" (That's a Richard Feynman quote.  See the video linked below).

"... Forest for the trees" says the Hiking Hermit.

Stuff Exists.  Things?  Not so much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Around the Top of the World: Days 20 and 21 - Iceland's East Fjords

Here's another installment in the report of my tour around the North from Svalbard to Alaska's Bering Strait.

These two days found me continuing my guided Ring Road tour around Iceland.  On the morning of Day 20 our first stop was the town of Höfn.  It was a clear, calm, misty morning along the east coast.  We parked on the end of a peninsula at the start of a trail simply called the "Nature Trail" (Iceland has a habit of severely over-simplifying its place names in general - for example the name of the largest glacier on the whole continent of Europe is simply called 'Water Glacier').

The "Nature Trail" followed this beautiful coast (where the photo above was shot), but also has appeal if the weather is murky, because arranged along the trail is a miniature correctly-scaled version of our solar system.  The Sun is the size of a beach ball,

Mercury is the size of the head of a pin, 

and Neptune stands on its pedestal at the other end of the Trail, 2.8 km away.  Pluto is there too, but apparently the trail doesn't go to it, since it has been downgraded to a 'minor planet'.  The walk is intended to give the visitor the experience of the vastness of our little corner of space.  

There is a very similar trail in and west of Madison, Wisconsin, that I visited in 2019.  In downtown Madison the trek starts with a 'Sun' the size of a two-story building.  Most people bike the route, which follows the paved 'Southwest Commuter Trail' and then the Military Ridge State Trail.  Pluto is 23 miles away.  I only hiked from the sun to somewhere between Saturn and Neptune before my route took me southward.

The morning mist on the calm sea made everything seem surreal.

But there's almost nowhere along Iceland's rugged coast that isn't pretty stunning to see.

We moved on to visit a number of waterfalls, and the crypto-tourism hot-spot of Lagarfljót - a deep, murky, sixteen-mile-long lake where Iceland's version of the Loch Ness Monster lurks.  I covered the waterfalls in a YouTube video posted here earlier, and the lake monster is featured (along with more interesting stuff) on the Hiking Hermit blog.

In this post I'm going in a different direction.

In fact, the rest of the material is all just 'stopping and smelling the flowers' on a tiny patch of tundra on a knoll near the town of Djúpivogur, where that distinctive glass sculpture stands, and where I had the chance to just sit and enjoy an hour of serenity.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day tribute to my Grandpa Dutch


George Gustav “Dutch” Auler was born on December 21, 1899. When the US entered the Great War in early 1917, he was only 17 years of age. The war in Europe was the dominant subject of conversation, and Grandpa decided to enlist in the army even before the US formally declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Grandpa enlisted on March 3rd, lying about his age to get in. He was 17 years, two months, and thirteen days old.

At the time the US Army had only 127,151 soldiers in uniform. Compare that with the German army’s 11 million. The US needed lots more bodies in uniform fast. So since not nearly enough people were enlisting fast enough, a new draft was enacted into law on May 18, 1917.

The draft had a shady history in the US. There had last been conscription in the Civil War, but it had loopholes that allowed rich people to pay somebody to take their place. That’s how my great Grandmother’s brother, Lewis G. Butzow, newly immigrated from Germany, joined the civil war. He wasn’t even a citizen yet. But a kick-start in this new country in the form of $250 cash from some rich man seemed like it was too good for him to pass up. He served honorably. But let’s get back to the current story.

The US was ramping up its war infrastructure at a frantic pace, opening and expanding boot camps around the country. Grandpa Dutch was called into the army in one of the first waves of call-ups, on June 20th, 1917, and after a short stop at Camp Douglas in Wisconsin he was sent to boot camp at Camp McArthur in Waco, TX. Here, in his own handwriting, is an autobiographical sketch of the events:

He left this bio unfinished. We have a photo of Grandpa Dutch and three colleagues/friends taken at Renne right around the 22nd of March 1918. The caption is in his own handwriting.

So where was he during the war? Grandpa rarely talked about the war, but he kept photos such as the one above, and was given (and kept) two history books about his unit. It is on the inside front cover of one of these that his incomplete bio above is written. The history books tell us that he was in the midst of the action on the western front–a trench-warfare line that stretched all the way across France. But best of all, we have a few of his letters, sent from the front lines to his sister Marie. And Marie saved them.

These letters provide no explicit detail of his activities. The censors did not allow that. But he describes being at 5 different ‘Fronts’. He talks about friends who were wounded, and how his best friend in the army was killed. And he talks explicitly about the conditions he was facing, such as ten-days of hard marching with a hole in one of his boots. I’m including two of the letters here; and I’ll let his own words speak for themselves. One letter was written just two weeks before he was wounded (we don’t know what the wound was), and just five weeks before the end of the war, 104 years ago today. The other letter describes his decorations and plans to return home in May of 1919. I’ve supplied a page-by page transcription, since his handwriting is sometimes a bit tough to read.

Oct. 3, 1918
Somewhere in France.

Dear Sis:-

Received two letters here lately from you and I was indeed enjoyed with their contents. One of the letters had a couple of pictures enclosed of Gertie and (Walter?) and the other of you and a trio of (Jackties?). They were very good and would like to get more of their kind. Please have Paul and the rest of the family including you line up and have their picture taken in front of the house

if possible. Would also like to have some news from some of my relatives.

Knew about Harry Barnes some time ago. Many things are happening over here and I also see many things but I cannot tell you about. Some of the happenings that I have to hold back would may (make) the people at home very happy and the others would make them very sad.

Everything is the same with me. We have changed fronts again and this one makes the 5th one we were at. 4 of them

will stand in History of the world forever. I have now seen much of France and am satisfied. We are pushing the Huns back continually and have them very near their own country. Many prisoners are being taken and by conversing with them and looking them over a fellow can get a pretty good idea of how they are fixed.

I am feeling good and working hard. By the way things look the end is very

near.  Don’t forget to write often and send some pictures.

Best regards from

Your Bro

George G. Auler

“Batt A” 121st F.A

A.E.F A.P.O 734

Censored By

Capt. B.O. Reynolds


Just as I was about to mail this letter I received two more letters, one from you and the other from Mrs. Nugent & Lily.  They writing to me surprised me very much and I am answering their letter immediately.  I really thing (think) a lot of my mail is being lost somehow or other for I only receive letters once in a great while.  And when the (they) do come they make me very happy.

You say a girl friend told you that it had been 2 weeks before her brother changed clothes.  Just an idea

of how I’m fixed. I hate to tell you but just for fun. Remember I belong to a storm division. We’ve been on 5 different fronts in 135 days. I have not changed clothes for about 75 days. Made hikes of 10 days through rain & mud with a hole in one of my shoes. Did not change socks for about 25 days. We sleep any place we can. Shell craters, old trenches & dugouts. Field mice & rats are abundant over here. That’s enough I guess.

Best regards to Mr Kenny and Mr O’brien. Am writing to Miss Lily Nugent immediately.

(End-of-letter) – Here’s the second one:

Gondrecourt, France
March 30, 1919

Dear Sis:-

I received your letter of many questions today. I will answer it immediately or rather the questions.

We shall sail for America the early part of May and I expect to be home by May 25.

I sent beaucoupe postals from the place I spent my 7 day furlough. I expect to go on another leave soon. I also sent a Battery picture and Book of A.E.F. cartoons. Let me no (know) when you get them.

We, the 57 Brigade, which is the 119th, 120th, 121st, and 147th F.A. has not been in Germany and

are a very far away from there. We were suppose to go to Coblentz to me (meet?) our 32nd Infantry but that has been changed and they are going to join us at Le Mans and then we shall probably go to Brest.

The boat that we came over on was the largest steamship and still is. It was the German ship Vaterland renamed Leviathan. We expect to go back on the same ship.

I met Clem Gill in the Hospital. He was not wounded but gassed very badly. He is back with his Regiment. Nearly every fellow that was at the Chateau-Thierry front was gassed a little including Battery A & myself.

Nick Gill’s Battery has just joined its Regiment and they have never been to the front.  They were at an Officers training school.  He was over here before I went on leave and visited me.  He is billeted about 2 miles away from were (where) I am.  We are still in the same rotten Barracks.

I never heard anything about Uncle Arthur’s death.  I heard something about that American cemetery and probably be able to see his grave before I leave France.

I’ll let you no (know) when I leave France by letter.  Don’t forget to save some of Schlitz’s beer.  The stuff in brown bottles.

I wear two gold service

stripes on my left arm and one wound stripe on my right arm. I also wear a red arrow with a cross on my left shoulder, the insignia of the 32nd Division. We are supposed to wear a citation cord over a four queue (?) but as yet they were not issued to us. This cord is for being cited at the front, and the 32nd Division was cited 9 times. I am in good health and spirits and hope they are all the same at home.

Your Brother
George G Auler

Censored by
FH Steinpatz (?)

Friday, October 28, 2022

Around the top of the World, Day 19: Roaming SE Iceland

Iceland's major National Park, containing and named for Vatnajökull, the largest Glacier in Europe, is the subject of this video. It's more than just a lot of ice. There is a special south-facing mountainside where I had an almost magical experience walking a lush forest of stunted European whte birch trees. Then there was Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, where remnants of icebergs from the glaciers glisten like jewels on the deep black sand. Everything shown here happened on the same day - the second of six on my Ring Road tour of the country.

A full report, complete with still photos is to be found at my new WordPress blog.  I'm gradually migrating there because WordPress offers more flexibility and features than Blogger.  Although I've yet to fully exploit most of those bells and whistles, I'm ever hopeful.  Check it out.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Water Features of Iceland

Waterfalls are my favorite thing.  Iceland has bunches of them, big, little, intimate and gimongous.  Then there are the places where water goes up.  

The video presents those highlights of my six-day Ring-Road tour that feature water in motion in some way.  At my sister blog site,, you can find a full report of the first of the six days, including more still photos.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Top of the World travels: Exploring Reykjavik, Iceland

Here are the highlights of two days exploring Reykjavik on foot, with strong emphasis on the wild, the natural, the peaceful, and the grand. Featured prominently is the iconic Hallgrims Lutheran Church.

How could it not be? Basically, it was the only landmark I knew about before coming here.

I spent two days exploring town, then another day holed up in my hotel waiting out a nasty storm, during which I learned about the volcanic eruption that was taking place just twenty miles south of the city.  Hiking access to it was closed this day because of the weather.  The previous two days, I could have taken the seven-mile round-trip hike, but I didn't know about it.  Missing the chance to see this eruption is the biggest regret I have from this two-month journey that took me halfway around the top of the world.

A full report of the days in Reykjavik, with more photos and a video clip of the eruption taken from a live web cam appears at my new blog site:  The Hiking Hermit.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Epic Icebergs of Greenland

Most of these massive floating islands of ice were found in Scoresby Sund on the east coast of Greenland, and Ilulissat on the west.

I've published a full report on the Scoresby Sund visit, days 8-13 of the Arctic bucket list adventure on the Hiking Hermit blog.  Head there for a look at some of the still shots of the icebergs from the video, plus coverage of the scenery, flora and fauna, and the one community we visited there (the only one within hundreds of miles), called Ittoqqortoormiit - population 350.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Humpback whale flip-flop!

Ever see a Humpback Whale do this?
This was late in Day 7 of my 'Around the Top of the World' adventure, offshore of southern Svalbard.
What's it doing? It repeatedly slapped the surface with one fin. Maybe that is a fishing tactic? Attracting attention? Just playing?
The video is a heavily zoomed-in edit of the original. Sorry for the fuzziness, but this whale was pretty darn far away from the ship. I first spotted it when it made a spectacular full-body leap out of the water. Sure wish I had that on video!

This is just an excerpt from the full 'Around the Top of the World, Days 6 and 7' blog post, which I've posted on my new Hiking Hermit blog. Head over there for more video clips and a bunch of still photos.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Hiking Hermit in Svalbard

Now back where I have high speed internet, I'm processing a big backlog of material gathered during the Arctic travels. Chronologically, the visit to Svalbard came first. Spent about six days there on the very remote and wild island of Spitzbergen, between 79 and 80 degrees north latitude, just 600 miles from the North Pole. The flora and fauna of the island and surrounding waters, along with the glaciers, were the main attractions for me.

I'm migrating my blogging to the new WordPress site In the this report I cover the first two days of travel in Svalbard, including more than a dozen still photos. Head over and take a look.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Up close and personal with Polar Bears

Here is a compilation of the video documentation taken on my long journey around half the world at the fringes of the Arctic Ocean, getting to within 600 miles of the North Pole, visiting Svalbard (Norway), Iceland, Greenland, Arctic Canada, and Alaska.

For a collection of the still images I took, and for more commentary, please visit the parallel post on my new Hiking Hermit blog:  An up-close visit with polar bears - The Hiking Hermit

Saturday, July 2, 2022

if I gave a TED Talk ...

... it would start in an auditorium.

Of course it would.  And you are there, sitting in the audience, right?

But the whole point of the talk is to get you out of your seat and out into nature ... walking!

Below is a written version of the message--not a transcript but the script, or the intended outline:

* * *

Good morning, folks.  I'm the Hiking Hermit and I'm here to talk about walking.

There is NOTHING ... NOTHING!!! ...more natural to us than walking.

We exist as a species because we walk, and walk well ...

LONG, HARD, All-day Hunter-Gatherer walks.

We got smart because we walked out of the jungle on two feet.

That freed our hands to use tools.

Learning to use tools expanded our brains; and we found we could make better and better tools.

Ever-more-clever tools to do our walking for us.  To do our thinking for us.

And what happened?  (This ought to come as no surprise.)


Our tools have taken over our lives.

We have become slaves ... chained to our tools, captive inside the artificial spaces we built for our comfort.  They've become voluntary jail cells, keeping us away from our true nature.

Look around you at this moment.  At least 90 percent of what we see and experience, at least 90 percent of the time, are our own tools.

They've swallowed us up!  We're drowning in them!  GASPING for air!

Our tools are destroying the world!


How on Earth did we fall into this trap?  How did we let ourselves get so stupid?

The answer is simple.  We got away from our true nature.

Our true nature IS nature itself.  We are good solid products of the natural world, crafted through Billions of years of trial and error.  We're made of good stuff.  But we're denying it.

And as I said at the start.  Our TRUE NATURE is walking.  Walking is the root characteristic that defines our species.

So the best way out of our trap -- the best way to SAVE THE WORLD -- is to GET UP, walk out of your artificial space, walk away from the Tool Monsters, and return to the lifestyle that makes walking the most important part of every day: as Thoreau put it, "The enterprise and Adventure of the day."

The GOOD NEWS is that the solution is EASY.  It's the most NATURAL thing we could do.

Because there is NOTHING ... NOTHING!!! ... that can transform your life more quickly and easily (and at practically no cost--no equipment to buy) than WALKING.

So for God's sake ... for your own sake! ... get up!  Get out of your chair and come along with me.

We're going on a REAL adventure.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Giving Back - an Announcement

I would appreciate feedback and will be seeking it. I'm announcing that I intend to develop and offer a comprehensive course on Day Hiking the Appalachian Trail, with application to any long-distance trail, and with emphasis not just on logistics, preparation, and execution, but on getting the most out of the experience--how to find peace of mind and a transformed outlook on life by immersing in the serenity of nature.

In conjunction with this course, I will be releasing my long-delayed hike memoir about my 2012 double Appalachian Trail hike. I am the only person in the world who has hiked the AT twice in one year without camping--that is, by doing all of it in 270 out-and-back day hikes. The first one was on January 1st and I finished on November 3rd. It was a truly transformative experience, and through the following years I have come to deeply appreciate the value of regularly getting out and 'setting down Footprints in the Wilderness'.

As I develop this course, I will be asking friends and fellow hikers for their input, and as it is actually being offered, I hope to join class graduates as they hike the AT in 2023. More news to come.

Now, as a bonus for those who visit this blog, here are some other recent Appalachian Trail scenes and recent photos of new blooms seen along the AT and around the Cloister at Three Creeks.
Solomon's Seal - loaded with flower buds
a very similar, closely related plant, the Canadian May-lily
Virginia waterleaf
a cluster of pink Lady's slippers.  Enough for four ladies!
Yellow Lady's Slipper
up close and personal
Wild azaleas at an AT viewpoint
Wild geraniums and Ohio Spiderwort along the AT
Tulip tree blossom, Liriodendron tulipifera
a closer look
Rare and very unusual four- and five-fingered Sassafras leaves

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Hiking Hermit - After two years in the woods, it's time to come back...

Footprints in the Wilderness:

Over the past twelve years, I've come to understand how transformative hiking in wild places can be.

There's the pure joy of being in the place, in the moment. There are the well-documented health benefits, both mentally and physically. And there are the connections, to people and to nature, to wild places and what they mean to people, to new and vivid ways of understanding the world and our place in it.

I began this experience climbing a 20,000 foot moiuntain in South America back in January 2010 after more than two years of whipping myself into shape. That was a bucket list achievement, but it didn't feel like an end.

I was in top physical form and never felt better. I wasn't going to go back to being a couch potato. In order to retain the clear health benefits I was experiencing, I started hiking trails around a big reservoir near home. The hikes grew in length and in purpose. By fall of 2011 I had decided I was going to try to hike the entire Appalachian Trail both ways in a calendar year. I (finally) have a book coming out about the experience, to be released in a couple months.

The AT hike was truly transformative for me in a multitude of ways; and I've met and witnessed the transformation of many other fellow hikers who were on the trail with me. Many of them have turned to a hiker oriented life style as a result. Their whole lives have been infused with new and wonderful purpose, finding a way to do what they love for a living, giving back to the trail community what they have gained.

For me, the transformation sent me on an even greater hiking quest than the AT. I undertook to hike to the doorstep of every one of nearly two dozen places that I've called home throughout my life--making a physical connection to them all on foot. I hiked over 20,000 miles in the process, reaching places like coastal North Carolina, Key West Florida, the upper peninsula of Michigan, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado--all connected by a continuous trail of footprints. Finally in fall of 2019 I accomplished that goal just in time for the world's sad transformation brought about by Covid.

In part in response to Covid, and in part simply following my gut, I then chose to walk away from society and the mess that it had become. I settled in the woods, sort of like Thoreau did at Walden Pond, and began another transformation--more of a spiritual one but also a very practical one. I gained an understanding of who I was and how I fit in to the great scheme of nature--from the tiny filaments of fungi helping to feed the roots of trees, to the cosmic filaments sprawled across the universe connecting clusters of galaxies with one another stretching through all known time and space.

It has taken two years of combined contemplation and decompression, but the transformation now seems complete. I begin to feel that it is time to return to society, acting as an ambassador from the Wilderness, in order to help other people find the kind of deep serenity and purpose that I have found.

In this video, presented as a rambling discussion as I hiked on a hot day in the woods, I share my thinking about some of the ideas I have that can help people find their own transformation. It's just the germ of the process--the very first stage. I hope to more fully organize and flesh out what I will offer--what I will do--in future talks. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

May 17th -- Ladies Day

On a beautiful sunny mid-May day at 3200 feet elevation near the Appalachian Trail and about three miles from the Cloister at Three Creeks, I spent the day on another of my nature quests.

Today I was looking for the hard-to-find wild orchid known as the Lady Slipper. The pink variety, Cypripedium acaule is far more common here, and today I saw several dozens in three separate locations, including the deepest pink variety I've ever seen. It was almost red.

But today's big prize were the rare yellow lady's slippers, Cypripedium parviflorum.