Meet Mick Dodge. Mick has spent 25 years living away from civilization entirely, living off of the land in a rainforest. Mick is a former marine who left his 9-5 job as a heavy equipment mechanic at Fort Lewis to take up an alternative lifestyle.
“That’s my real passion,” says Dodge.
Dodge is a native of the Hoh Rainforest, which is located on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington State. His great-grandparents originally settled the area. Dodge grew up to travel around the world and become a huge fitness freak.
At 62 years old, Dodge doesn’t have time for any fancy gym, or even society. His gym is the great outdoors. He calls it the Earth Gym, kind of a YMCA in the forest. Dodge spends his days and nights in the forest. He wears no shoes, and simply walks barefoot through streams and between trees. The reason he walks with no shoes is because his feet hurt.
“My feet hurt. They hurt so bad that I could barely walk and I had always used my walk and run to handle the stress of modern living. The Hoh is home for me. So I went home to heal my feet.”
“The results came quickly. Not only were my feet healing, but my back pain, neck pain and most of all my heart pain disappeared, and in no time at all I was back into a dead run, stepping out of the sedentary, stressed, sedated and secured living of the modern world. I was dancing as the fire, running as the wind, strengthening as the stone and flowing as the water within, by the simple act of touching with my bare soles and allowing the Earth to teach.”
Of course, not wearing shoes hasn’t always worked out for him. On three separate occasions, he’s injured his feet. Once while running in the early forest, he almost lost his toes to frostbite. That taught him a lesson. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Sometimes he wears some knee-high buffalo skin boots with elk horn buttons. What a fella!
Dodge is a practical kind of naturalist and it helps him survive. In the wet climate, he wears plastic garments to protect from the rain. “The art of living out here is the art of staying dry,” he said. He also eats pretty much whatever he comes across.
“I am an omnivore, able to eat a wide variety of food, which also means that I learned how to become a scavenger and allowed the hunger in my belly to guide me into discovering all kinds of food. When a cougar kills an elk, the entire forest moves in to eat. So I do the same,” he said. “But there is one highly spiritual food that I try to maintain in my stashes and storage places and that is chocolate-chip cookies. My grandmothers got me hooked on them.”
His lifestyle may make him seem like some kind of crazy forest hermit, but he’s hardly in isolation. He spends his time with a community of mountain dwellers. He even gets the occasional girlfriend. “On my journey, I have formed so many wonderful connections with women, formed strong brother-and-sister relationships with them,” he said. “I may not be able to figure out what they are always talking about. But if their soles are touching the earth, I am more able to figure it out.”
Dodge doesn’t miss civilization, but he doesn’t shun it either. “There is no way to get away from it. So I developed a physical fitness practice in how to step in and out of it, stepping out of the walls, machines, electronics, social babble for a while, ground back into the natural flow of the land, and then go back in.”
Dodge’s life is being covered in a new National Geographic Channel series called The Legend of Mick Dodge. The show focuses on all his adventures in the mountains.
Dodge is an interesting cat. He’s connected with nature, has a sense of humor, and lacks the self-righteousness you get with the off-grid naturalist types. It’s pretty refreshing.
“My family has perfected the art of dodging civilizations for hundreds of years. All I have to do is follow my feet,” Dodge puts it plainly.