The Barefoot Sensei

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Deep in the Hoh Rain Forest of western Washington is a tree stump, and inside that stump lives a man named Mick Dodge. He is the stuff of rumors. A real, living wood ape, a whisper from the lips of dubious townspeople, an earthling of the very definition. He is also, surprisingly enough, a cookie snob.


Screenshot from The Mick Way of Life

A former Marine and mechanic, Dodge ditched life on the grid for one of simplicity and solitude after basic life stresses and health issues presumably crushed his grip on reality, sending him on a life-long pursuit of connection in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula.

Since 1991, he has shunned shoes, preferring instead to live barefoot, a decision he credits with curing his plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, and back pain. But his bare feet are more than just self-medication, they’re a lifestyle. Dodge “follows his feet” to food, water, health and happiness.

Upon moving to the woods, Dodge weighed 225lbs. of pure “body-building weight.” After making the transition to barefoot, Dodge believes his feet told him that his body was too heavy, and to slim down would cure his ailments. And, according to Dodge, it worked.

He calls a modest tree stump his home and dines on leafy greens, fresh rainwater, roadkill, maggots and a variety of other Pacific Northwest delicacies. He wears hand-tooled leathers and game hides made by an old friend and equally awkward hermit who, much like Dodge, has called the forest home since age 18.

But Dodge is not exactly as he is advertised. In fact, he is not so different from any other poorly adjusted man-child. In between climbing trees, he brushes his teeth (with pinecones) and shoots arrows, wears shoes sometimes, gets giardia and lusts after chocolate-chip cookies just like the rest of us, with one exception: it’s all televised on National Geographic.

Dodge’s show, The Legend of Mick Dodge, follows his escapades from a staged romp through a creek to a partially-staged romp through some mosquitoes and features a dizzying cast of naturally incandescent characters like his friend Carl and his apprentice Will of Stone, who if they were anymore lively would actually be distinguishable from their surroundings.

But with a touch of Thoreau and a touch of theatrics, Dodge the eco-Kardashian is pure entertainment: part truth and part fiction, but all crazy. And mad about fitness.

Dodge has parlayed his almost-fame into lucrative business opportunities, despite his anti-establishment, non-monetary associations.

His EarthGym takes equally estranged weirdos into the woods for a truly all-natural workout. No weights, no treadmills, no rubber or plastic or mirrors. Just nature, and no one for miles, and miles, and miles, and miles around.

Whatever Dodge’s motivations or mental health, he is, in most ways, the genuine article- a self-sufficient, distinctly anti-modern man, well versed in the mother tongue of Mother Nature. He is the “barefoot nomad”, the “walking mountain”, the “barefoot sensei”. He lives in a tree stump, for Nature’s sake.Then again he’s also a TV star and a workout coach, and when you add that to the mix it makes the whole I-live-in-a-tree-stump-and-drink-my-own-pee thing kind of creepy.

We only have a few frames of Bigfoot, and that’s what keeps the mystique alive. The more we see of Dodge, the more we see inside of him. The more we see his neurosis, his past, and his socialization (or lack thereof). The more we see of Dodge and his loose grip on reality the more we realize about ourselves that perhaps a loose grip is the only way we can cope with reality itself. The distance and distortion we create is the key to seeing the positivity in all things, ignoring all else and taking a stilted, unrealistic view of the positive/negative balance of the universe. Maybe this is the truth in a man like Dodge, a stark reaction to modernity and not a Naturalist revelation.

Or maybe I just ate some weird mushrooms and need to throw up a little bit?

Whichever direction your feet take you, you can be sure the world, and the people in it, only gets weirder from here.

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