Twenty five years ago, Mick Dodge walked away from the modern world, leaving civilization behind to live alongside nature’s wonders in the Olympic Peninsula. Following a primal instinct present throughout generations of his family, Mick ventured deep into the Hoh Rainforest, making his home in the trees and hidden in the moss. Experience the wild life of Mick Dodge, a quirky character whose unique brand of Zen comes from living by his own code – off the land and off the grid.
Yesterday, we asked Mick Dodge to participate in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). With the help of a nearby friend with Internet, Mick was able to answer tons of questions from our online community. If you missed it, here’s the transcript:
The description for one of the episodes says that you became so desperate for a decent meal that you looked through elk feces hoping to find larvae eggs. How did they taste, and what are some of the more unusual things you’ve had to eat in the forest?
Yoish! No i was not going to eat elk shit. I was trying to get the camera crew to eat it.
What does Yoish! mean?
Yoish! Yoish, is a word that my sensei taught me in Okinawa. It can mean many things. It helps me focus. If i am going to pick up a heavy stone and lift it. I use the word “yoish” to focus my attention and effort. then when i am in the game of life and need to get a grip on the moment. I can say “YOISH”deep inside me and ground with the moment.
You’re off the grid – How did they find you?
Yoish! Jenny and Michele of interchange media found me on Whidbey Island living in a tent sharing the earth gym practices, and then two years ago i returned to the Hoh River Valley my teacher and set up a earth gym for people to come and train. It was the band of women at the Olympic Mountains Earth Wisdom Circle that set up all the modern support to connect me in.
How do you internet?!?!?!?!?!
Yoish! I walk my way to my base camp. Turn on the computer and do you what you do. Though we are having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to do this now.
What do you usually eat out there?? Bugs??
Yoish! I eat food, some times insects, some times pizza. I run three terrains in the earth gum and have explored how to eat in all these terrains.
If someone had to live in the wild for 2 weeks but could only bring 3 survival items, what 3 items would you recommend?
Yoish! Knowledge, Skills and desire. They are the three pillars of training.
What is your favorite thing about living in the woods?
Yoish! Discovering the ways to use physical training to nurture our nature and release the rapture, landing the muscles minding into the heart of matter and earth is matter.
Does it get scary sleeping alone at night and have you ever been woken up by some animal visitors?
Yoish! The most scary animal are two legged creatures.
How long did it take your feet to get used to going barefoot? I walked home a few days ago with no shoes on and they were sore for days after.
Yoish! It has taken sixty two years. I am still following them. I just follow them and find my own rhythm, endurance, strength and balance in landing the earth.
Do you miss human companionship?
Yoish! Not at all i have lots of companionship.
How about a significant other? Does that person live with you and travel with you?
What do you enjoy most about your lifestyle?
You gave up on modern live. Did you also step away from women/sex or have there been “encounters”?
Yoish! I having been stepping “in and out” of modern living and the wild for sixty two years, all of us have. It is a rhythm “in and out” and “out and in”. The key word is the word “and”, which tracks and sounds into the word “land”. So i land my soles in the three terrains, the walls of the city, through the open fenced lands up into the gated wild and back again, seeking middle earth.
Do you really brush your teeth with a pinecone? I just have to know.
Yoish! When i am out on long training quest, absolutely. When i get back down to my stashes around the walls of the city. I have a tooth brush there. I often use cedar sticks also.
What’s the worst you’ve had to endure in the wild?
Yoish! Endurance is one of those physical qualities that have been my training goal. How to endure long journeys. How to endure the cold. In the city walls the most challenging thing for me to endure is the “boredom”. The mountain taught me that boredom is two words. “Boring and Dum”. So run through the boredom, dodge it and step into the organic organizing reality of movement in the moment.
In a recent interview I read that you used to teach the practices of the Earth Gym. What is the Earth Gym?
Yoish! I have been exploring physical fitness all my life. The earthgym for me consist of three terrains, the modern city world, the open fenced lands and the gated wild. So i run these three terrains learning how to create a training hall in each of these three terrains. Movement and habits are formed in habitat. So it has been my “sole purpose” to use physical training to remember, recover and restore my soles to running life with rapture.
You said that you have developed a close relationship with fire to use in healing. What are some of the ways that you use fire to heal yourself?
Yoish! One of the ways i use fire is sweats. Another way is to dance with the fire. I often find that when i get a bit weak, run down. That a good dance with the spirit of fire, pulls me back into the “rapture”.
How long did it take you to grow that beard?
Have you ever missed the “modern” world? Where do you expect to be in 5 years?
I am always missing it, dodging it. After all i am a Dodge.
Have you ever come close to dying (of hunger, wild animals, weather, etc.) and if so what were the circumstances?
Yoish! One of the things that the earth has taught me about hunger, is to run, go on foot and just keep moving, the hunger pains take a back seat. It was amazing how long that i could go on foot and not eat the way that i had learned in domestication.
Hi, Mick. I’m a weekend adventurer that spends a lot of time in the city for work. What advice can you offer to someone looking to build practical outdoor survival skills without being totally immersed in the lifestyle?
Yoish! Follow your bare soles. The first thing that happens when you step out of shoes, or the shoe box is you have to “pay attention”. Then comes “acceptance”, learning to accept the habitat and the habits that you have. These two steps, attention and acceptance form into a stride of awareness, and the first thing that you need to be aware of is “shoe salesman” and you are your own best show salesman.
What tools do you use in your day to day woodland tasks and which is the most useful?
Yoish! I use sticks to leverage my bones and pull me out of chronic conditions formed from domestication. I use ropes to hang in trees and hang the sad and mad in life. When you hang up side down gravity will pull the grin back. My grandfather taught me that. I also use stones to grip and ground into the embrace of the the earth, and i use sacks, to sack and stuff the knowledge and skills that i learn in the gated wild, learn in the walls of modern living and learn in the open fenced lands.
surely you are observing everything around you every day … what changes have you seen in the forest ?
Yoish! Not far from my base camp are some “stump lands”, cut down, maybe ten years ago to feed the desire of the modern world. I train in these stumps lands, learn how to grow and heal with them, find the ways to help them grow back. I go into the old growth forest to get a feel what they can become again.
Have you seen or heard a Bigfoot?
Yoish! Absolutely, i have seen big foot. Though we call him big toe and he lives over in the seattle and comes out once and awhile.
Has there ever been a point in your life that you’ve regretted being a barefoot sensei?
Yoish! The word “sensei” is a japanese word, my sensei in okinawa taught me that it means “one foot ahead”. We are all sensei in something. We all have things to share. The word share tracks into the word “care”, and when you care about something in your life, gathering the knowledge and skills that you stick in your sack, or your cup, and then “share” it. Knowing when to share and when to empty your sack or cup and learn from others is the meaning of “sensei” to me.
What would you say has been your most meaningful experience in your life?
Yoish! I have them every day how to fit my bare soles into the gated wild and how to fit them into the modern world and finding the balance the middle path and have a good time while doing it.
I just made a post regarding my intention to do something similar to you, and was shown this – uncanny. What would be your most important piece of advice to an aspiring adventurer?
Yoish! Stand in your bare soles, take two fingers place them at the corner of your mouth, push your mouth up into a grin, and then get on with it. You have a primal body memory in you, all of us do, go on the adventure and release it. Then share with others what you discover.
Life without sneakers is a life I do not want to live
Yoish! I know what you mean. I often wear socks, mocks, hand crafted foot wear that fits the shape of my feet. But the sneakiest way to get around is the bare soles.
What made you want to live in the wild and is there anything you really miss while you are there?
What kind of product does that beard require? It’s glorious!
Yoish! Good Hoh Water, living water and not that dead water of the city. The water here is magical, likes to grow things.
For more on Mick Dodge and his wild life, tune in to The Legend of Mick Dodge Tuesdays at 10P on National Geographic Channel.