By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Dodge — billed as “the barefoot sensei” — is a resident of the Hoh Rain Forest who, according to National Geographic, has lived “off the grid” in the Pacific Northwest for more than 25 years.
A new documentary, “The Legend of Mick Dodge,” which follows the life of the bearded West End resident, begins at 10 p.m. tonight and Saturday on National Geographic Channel.
Two 30-minute episodes will run on Tuesdays and Saturdays starting at 10 p.m. for three weeks.
The first half-hour episode, “Meet the Legend,” will be followed immediately by a second episode, “Trading Up.”
Dodge was not available for an interview with the Peninsula Daily News.
Dodge was born in Forks and grew up in Japan with his father, Ron Dodge, a U.S. Marine, where he studied under a philosophical “sensei,” or teacher, and spent summers with his grandparents in the Hoh, according to his National Geographic biography.
But as an adult, he found the modern world wasn't a good fit, he said in a question-and-answer session for National Geographic.
“The modern cultural story was not 'making sense' to me, lots of good talk about what is wrong, lots of talk about what is right, talk, talk, talk,” Dodge said.
“So I went for a walk. In following my feet, I found myself stepping out of the insulation of the modern world and landing in the earth.”
Gradually, he spent more time in the Hoh Rain Forest where he spent his summers with his grandparents.
“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,” he said.
“I was back into a dead run, stepping out of the sedentary, stressed, sedated and secured living of the modern world.”
Dodge is said to sleep in tree stumps and walk barefoot through the rain forest wearing only an elk hide cape and leather pants.
The show depicts his life as he runs barefoot through the forest with his dog, Gabu, and visits other Hoh residents, including Karl Holmquist, a Forks leatherworker and retired chiropractor, and others introduced only as Doc, Will, Rusty and Norm.
“In the beginning, it was a slow transition shifting and shaping out of the 'walls of modern time and electronic communication,'” he said.
“I would be “out” for several days, learning from the spirits of the land, and then come back in and contact my friends and family,” Dodge said.
“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 said.
Michael Hagen, director of land management at Hoh River Trust said he first met Dodge about two years ago on Trust property in the area.
Hagen said he's skeptical about Dodge sleeping in stumps on a regular basis.
“I believe he has a house in the Branderberry Lots,” he said.
Some of the filming has taken place on Trust property and ended in October, Hagen said.
“They're pretty light and quick. They don't have the big trucks like the commercials that film here,” Hagen said.
Dodge does leave the forest to make something of a living.
With Llyn Roberts, known as “Cedar Woman,” as a business partner, Dodge has become known as the Barefoot Sensei, and teaches his forest-based wisdom the lessons of his lifestyle to those who sign up for clinics through the Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle.
Clinics offered by the EarthWisdom Circle are held in Forks and elsewhere, and cost $650 for a week-long training session in New York, or as much as $3,450 for a two-week shamanic retreat in Guatemala.
Dodge's most recent clinic on “shapeshifting and barefoot EarthWisdom” was held in November in Big Sur, Calif.
When he's not teaching classes, he can be as elusive in person as he is billed to be on the reality show.
He isn't often seen in Forks, the largest town in the area, and known only to a few long-time residents.
“Ninty-nine percent of the people in Forks don't know about him,” said Laurie Johnson, who grew up in Forks and currently works at the Forks Visitor Center.
Johnson said that she has occasionally seen Dodge, barefoot, at Forks Outfitters, over the last few decades, and that her parents knew him and his family for years.
“He keeps to himself out in the forest and he has a few friends out there,” Johnson said.
Clips from the show feature how he trades for many of the things he needs, such as new pants, for items he can produce using items he can find in the forest, such as his “famous” homemade foot-crushed jam.
According to his official National Geographic's biography, his favorite foods are berries, chocolate chip cookies, shamrocks, road kill, dandelions — and elk droppings.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.