When Brecka and Nick Mayo got married in Colorado earlier this year they brought a piece of the Adirondacks with them.
“My dad made a sign for our wedding to replicate a true Adirondack trail sign and had an old metal trail marker he put on it for us too,” said Brecka.
Though they both live in Colorado, they grew up hiking in the Adirondacks and met by chance at a trail in the Adirondacks. About a year ago, they also founded an Adirondack-inspired apparel company called BarkEaters, the Mohican term for Adirondack.
“We got our start there and it’s really where we fell in love with nature and hiking and what it can do for us. It’s really changed both of our lives,” Nick said.
While they mostly sell BarkEaters apparel from their website, The Mountaineer in Keene carries their kids' t-shirt, with the words “Be Adventurous” written below a bear with mountains and a sunrise drawn inside it.
Brittany Purdy, the women’s clothing buyer for The Mountaineer, said that she wanted to carry it in the store because Brecka is from upstate New York, and because of the founders’ story.
Brecka, who works from home as a nurse, grew up in Cohoes, while Nick, who is an accountant, grew up in the Syracuse area. They were brought together in 2015 at the Times Square Junction in Newcomb when they were both striving to become 46ers.
“We were hiking separately and just randomly met at that junction,” Brecka said, “Then I found him on Instagram after and we chatted for over a year before we finally met in person [again].”
At the time, Brecka had already moved out to Colorado, so Nick got on a plane to go see her. The first backpacking trip they took out there was to Island Lake in Silverton, Colo., where they decided to elope earlier this year.
“We started [out] at 2 a.m. and we put on our suit and wedding dress and hiked the five miles down in our wedding attire. It was the best day,” Brecka said.
With them were their two dogs, Cooper and Trekker, who usually accompany them on hikes. The latter was quilled by a porcupine within the first few miles of the hike. Luckily, they were able to get the quills out quickly and continue on with the wedding.
“I don’t think many people can say their dog was quilled on their wedding day,” Brecka said.
They live close to the Rocky Mountains, a range they’ve explored quite a bit since moving to Colorado Springs. It was on one such trip in late 2017 that they brainstormed the idea for BarkEaters. According to Nick, they were both looking for a way to stay involved with the outdoors and with the Adirondacks and the outdoor community even when they couldn’t physically be there.
“We were actually on our way home from a hiking trip and we got discussing it,” Mayo said, “We just brainstormed the whole way home.”
Less than a month later, they had a website and a few shirts for sale.
“It just all came together,” Nick said.
Their shirt and hat designs are at times whimsical and sometimes cheeky, like their “Basic Birch” shirt.
There’s often an element of the Adirondacks, whether its a brown bear with the acronym ADK written on it or a mountainous skyline.
“A lot of the shirts that are out there have a landscape, which is cool, but how many of those shirts can you have? So we always try to do something a little bit different,” Nick said.
Typically, Brecka comes up with a design idea and Nick freehand draws a sample, later transferring it into a digital version. In the first few months, creating the digital version presented a huge challenge. As an accountant, Nick didn’t have a lot of experience with digital design and all the complex programs required it. However, it’s gotten much easier with time.
“It’s a learning experience. Seeing an idea that just popped into your head and then two weeks later you have it [in front of you] and it looks good is really satisfying,” Nick said.
Initially, their customers were mostly people centered around the Adirondacks. But in the last few months, orders have been coming in from all over the country.
“It’s really taken off in the last four months,” Nick said.
Even then, they have the Adirondack community to thank for that, said Brecka.
“I feel like we’re a bit of a family in the Adirondacks. They have just been so supportive,” Brecka said, “Even other [apparel] companies.”
Like The Mountaineer. Since the shop started carrying the BarkEaters “Be Adventurous” shirt this summer, it’s sold well, Purdy said.
In the future, Nick and Brecka hope to expand BarkEaters and make sweatshirts and other apparel. Most of their t-shirts are a tri-blend and they want to continue to make apparel with similarly soft fabrics that people want to wear all day long.
“What we always try to do is make something [we’re] excited to wear,” Nick said. Because at the end of the day, the purpose of Barkeaters isn’t just to run a business.
“It’s a passion project for us. Our goal as things progress is just to inspire people to get out and to challenge themselves to do new things. But at the same time, know what [they’re] doing,” Nick said.
As a part of their website, they run a blog that’s dedicated to all things outdoors. They write about their latest hiking trips; the challenges and the victories. They both have full-time jobs so most of their hiking is done on the weekends.
“We are weekend warriors. Some weekends we drive six hours to get to a trail if it’s something that we really want to do,” Brecka said.
They’re already 46ers, but they’re also aiming to hike the 50-plus mountains in Colorado that are over 14,000 feet elevation at the summit. They’re nicknamed the 14ers.
“We’ve done 24 of them and our dog Cooper has done 23 of them with us,” Brecka said.
They’ve documented some of those hikes on the blog, but they’re planning to expand the content in the coming months. They have a few other hikers and writers who will be blogging about leaving no trace when hiking and why that’s so important, hiking with your dog safely, mountain biking, etc.
“We’re trying to make it more of a community,” Brecka said.
“There’s so much out there. We’ve talked to a lot of people that say ‘I wish I could do what you do.’ We always tell them, it all starts with that first hike,” Nick said, “Get out there and try it. But at the same time respect the beauty of it and care for it so that the people after you can enjoy it too.”