Niki Marengo decided to do something different to celebrate turning the big 4-0. While dinner and drinking with friends has always had its appeal, Marengo’s midlife milestone brought on a sudden, primal urge to reconnect with nature and break free from the doldrums of suburban living. So, instead of relaxing, she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone and chose to go backpacking along the Appalachian Trail.
Not wanting to go it alone, Marengo posted an APB to friends on facebook. While few were interested in going along on the adventure, those that were seemed quite enthusiastic — despite a general lack of experience.
“Jessica (Haag) was one of the very few people who said she would go. We just didn’t know anything about backpacking or anything like that. We weren’t in that kind of a circle,” admits Marengo.
In the end, three women prepared themselves as best they could and set out on a four-day excursion in the wilderness.
“We were scared as could be,” recounts Marengo. “We have bears. Everything you need, you carry on your back. The first mile in I almost stepped on a timber rattlesnake. But we pushed ourselves to do it. And on the way home we all felt very empowered. It was kind of soul changing. It was like, ‘Ok, this is what we love.’”
In the days that followed, the group was admired (both in daily life as well as on social media) for their will and bravery in undertaking such a journey. Many people expressed to Marengo their desire to pursue the same type of adventures. They also admitted that obstacles like fear, complacency, lack of familiarity with the outdoors, lack of supplies, and not having likeminded companions held them back from trying it themselves.
“’I don’t have anyone to encourage me.’ We heard that a lot. We thought, wouldn’t it be cool to start something around here that would engage people to do things that they wouldn’t normally be able to do, or that their friends don’t do? Just to be able to push them; to get people out of the everyday,” says Marengo. “That’s when we were like, ‘We can be the people.’”
Marengo and Haag formed Arrow Adventure with the hope of persuading and supporting others in trying new, outdoor quests. They now facilitate various excursions, catering them to the come-as-you-are beginner who wants to try new things without too much investment. Teaching backpacking skills, leading group hikes, and organizing activities like Mountain Biking and Archery for Beginners are a few of Arrow Adventure’s pursuits of late.
“Whether it be skiing or biking, we just want to encourage people to get outside. We know that we’re not the experts on everything, but we’ll find someone that is and we’ll work with them and we’ll all learn together,” says Marengo.
Beyond offering encouragement, sustainability and accessibility round out Arrow Adventure’s mission.
“What we realized is people also don’t do these things because it’s expensive,” says Marengo. “To try backpacking — I mean my backpack was almost $200. Everything adds up.”
In an attempt to better equip those interested in delving further into outdoor activities while keeping valuable materials out of landfills, Arrow Adventure began offering a consignment service for gear. A hard launch occurred on February 1st with a live sale on Instagram.
The gear swap is a symbiotic part of the organization, serving Arrow Adventure’s community and the environment while funding future excursions and development.
“If you have anything to sell, we’ll buy it outright (if it’s 70 dollars or less), or consign and split depending on the price of the item. We’ve got stuff for men, women, and children,” says Marengo.
She looks forward to muscling up the consignment arm of Arrow Adventure in the near future, planning to host pop-up sales and drop offs at local events and flea markets — eventually with the added utility of a designated RV.
Upcoming plans for 2021 include repeats of past successes, like kayaking with Fifty West, mountain biking with GOT DIRT, and Arrow Adventure’s own creation, “Women, Wine and Wilderness.”
“It’s like a backpacking 101. We provide the food. We bring some extra wine. We have (the women) bring a backpack, rent one if needed. And we have them carry it so they can get the feel of it and see if it’s something they’d want to do,” says Marengo.
Those looking to get acquainted with the group are encouraged to join in the Valentine’s Day Pup Hike at Miami Whitewater Forest on February 14th. Dogs are welcome, but not required.