Roaring Fork Valley native and professional runner Rickey Gates begins a 5-month journey across America today — on foot. Gates has raced on the European mountain running circuit, but last week he slowed down for a walk along the Rio Grande Trail with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy to talk about his 3,500-mile run across the country.
Gates has competed on all seven continents, including Antarctica, and this run is partly about learning more about his own country.
“There’s so many places around the world that I know better than my own country,” he said. “I’d really love to discover my own backyard a bit more.”
In mapping the trip, Gates said he focused on green areas on maps and has identified many east-to-west trails that will keep him off of major highways. He also plans to boat sections of the Tennessee and Colorado rivers, but will not make use of motorized vehicles.
“There’s no question that the slower that you move, the more open you are to meeting people and getting what I consider an authentic experience,” Gates explained. “When you’re on foot and you’ve got all your belongings in your backpack, there’s a certain level of vulnerability without the steel animosity of a car or even motorcycle or bicycle.”
Gates has packed all the necessities into a 20-liter, lightweight backpack. He hopes to arrive at his finish line in San Francisco in August.
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