Mick Dodge spent six years in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Vietnam War. Before joining the military, Mick grew up near Hoh Rainforest in Forks, Washington. His father, a former Marine, made sure that Mick got to spend plenty of time outdoors. Every morning at 5 am, he would wake Mick up to go for a run. They would often run three miles a day, usually in the forest. Mick grew to love the rainforest as much as his father did.
Thanks to his father’s training, Mick developed a passion for fitness and exercise. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, which is what led him to join the Marines. After returning home from the Vietnam War, he moved around for a while. He didn’t have a college degree, but he had a high school diploma, so he was able to jet different jobs. He worked as a heavy equipment mechanic, he dug ditches, chopped wood, and he even washed dishes. During all this time, he missed living in Washington State.
Buying a Home
In the late ’90s, Mick bought a home in Yelm. He took a job in Fort Lewis, and he continued with his morning runs. One day, he decided to combine his workout with his commute to work. The route required him to run and swim, so he kept clean clothes on the opposite bank of the Nisqually
River. This would give him something to wear to work. When the commute got to be too much, he decided to move closer. He sold his house and started camping out on the base of Fort Lewis, going to work from there.
Simply camping out wasn’t enough for Mick. He wanted to spend all of his time outdoors, enjoying the natural landscape. He honed his own physical fitness routine, but he suffered physical ailments that drove him from his traditional lifestyle. His feet began to hurt so badly that he could barely walk. He was using his runs to help make sense of the modern world, and with such painful feet, he knew what he had to do. He suffered from plantar fasciitis and hammer toe, which made wearing shoes painful. He was going to return to the Hoh Rainforest so that his feet could heal.
When Mick got back to Hoh, he did more than heal his feet. He created what he calls Earth Gym, which is a fitness center that runs without walls or equipment. His experience of going deep into the wilderness with his father inspired him to find various ways to stretch and tone using just the trees, wind, water, and stones.
All of Mick’s equipment for his Earth Gym comes from nature; however, he had brought in a few unnatural things. He uses straps, cargo nets, and ropes for climbing exercises. What is even more strange is that when he is out in the rainforest, he doesn’t wear shoes. People started hearing about Mick and his workouts; they wanted to learn from him. He began training people who enjoyed the natural, outdoor exercise the way that he did. According to Mick, Mother Nature could provide all of the workout equipment that he needed. For example, his students didn’t need a treadmill to workout. Instead, they could jump into the Sol Duc River and sprint upstream. Mick could find a natural workout to compare to just about anything that his students would find in the gym.
People began posting videos of their workouts with Mick and his way of life, and they caught the attention of Liza Keckler, the Vice President of Development for a Seattle-based production company called Screaming Flea. She says that when she saw the first video, Mick was climbing a tree and singing. Liza thought that Mick’s life would be great for a reality TV show for the National Geographic Channel, but things didn’t go as she expected.
Refusing To Be Fake
Reality TV isn’t all reality. The producers often set up scenarios, and the participants usually have to follow a script. Mick refused to do this. They wanted to film a show called The Legend Of Mick Dodge, but they had to do it on his terms. He refused to read from a script because they wanted him to say things that were out of his character. They also tried to put him in situations that just didn’t seem right. For one episode, the producers wanted him to go out and hunt a bear. He refused, and the episode was changed to Mick going mushroom hunting. Liza agreed to his terms, but it made producing the show much harder than she ever expected. The show ran for three seasons.
A Shift in the Cameramen
When the show first started, the cameramen looked like everyday guys. It wasn’t long before they began to change. They grew their beards long, and they would go barefoot, just like Mick. He says that he learned a lot from them as well.
Here’s how this former Marine has managed to survive in the rainforest for 20 years. He lived naturally and free. He doesn’t wear shoes except for when the ground is frozen, and he wears buffalo-skin footwear. He sleeps out in nature wherever he chooses, and he lives off the land. To bathe and drink, he uses the glacial waters, which he says has healing properties. When he gets a cold or the flu after going into the city, soaking in the water cures him quickly. He also credits it for healing his foot issues. He lives his life his way and on his terms, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.