Mick Dodge, a former marine, left modern civilization and a family 25 years ago to live “off the grid” in the Pacific Northwest’s Hoh Rainforest. He is 62 now, yet walks barefoot through streams and between trees. What prompted Mick to go to the forest in the first place, and why doesn’t he wear shoes?
“My feet hurt. I had hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, deformed feet. 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, make sense of the modern world story that I was living in, and the Hoh is home for me. So I went home to heal my feet. In following my feet I found myself stepping out of the insulation of the modern world and landing in the earth. 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. It is a simple matter to follow your feet, but is does not come easy. The Earth will eat you if you are not paying attention,” he told Zen Gardner in 2014 after he agreed to be the subject of National Geographic Channel’s series “The Legend of Mick Dodge”.
What does he eat to survive in the forest? “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. For example, I would come upon an elk killed by a cougar. When a cougar kills an elk, the entire forest moves in to eat. So I do the same. I often come upon road kill. Many people are scared of such food and yet they eat jerky … and jerky is nothing more than sun-dried meat. So what I eat during a normal week changes depending upon which one of the three terrains that I am footing my way through. 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,” he explained.
Is Mick crazy? Is he an Isolationist? Not really. He spends his time with a community of mountain dwellers. He has formed strong brother-and-sister relationships with the men and women he has met. Dodge doesn’t miss civilization, but he doesn’t shun it either. He’s connected with nature, yet he also lacks the self-righteousness normally associated with off-grid naturalists.
“By getting some distance from the comforts, habits, physical structures like shoes, machines, walls, electronics, I find myself seeking out what makes sense, what fits, and integration of the wild and tame make sense. So l learned to hunt and track the middle path, the middle way. It is not easy at times figuring out the middle way between the modern world and the Earth. But it is fun and adventure,” he concluded.
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