“That’s my real passion,” says Mick Dodge, a former marine who has spent 25 years living apart from civilization. It was 25 years ago that he left his job as a heavy equipment mechanic at Fort Lewis to take up his alternative lifestyle.
Dodge now lives in the firest where he grew up, in the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington State. In his younger years, he joined the armed forces, traveled the world, and became a freak for physical fitness.
But now, at the age of 62, Dodge has no interest in seeing the world, visiting a fancy gym, or participating in society at all. He calls the forest the Earth Gym, like a YMCA in the forest. He spends his days and nights in the forest with no shoes. He left his shoes behind 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.”
Occasionally his plan for not wearing shoes has come to bite him in the, well, foot. He’s injured his feet on three separate occasions; once while running through the forest. Another time he nearly lost his toes to frostbite.
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he says. There was a lesson learned there. In the winter, he wears knee-high buffalo skin boots adorned with elk horns. A man after my own heart.
Dodge considers himself a naturalist, but a pragmatic one. He does use things like rain gear. “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 grandmother’s got me hooked on them.”
Dodge doesn’t miss civilization, nor does he hate it.
“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 has been well covered in the National Geographic Channel series, The Legend of Mick Dodge. The show is about his woodland adventures.
“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.