Traveller. Photographer. Teacher. West Virginian.
This is the first of many ‘Meet the Explorer’ segments on my blog. With a passion for people and their stories, this was a must see for Mr. Morggenfrisk content. I am so happy and thankful to have great participation and well thought out answers. I hope you enjoy this new featured section of my blog…take it away Ms. Bush!
What do you do for a living?
I am a Middle School teacher! I teach Social Studies and English to students in grades 6-8.
How did you end up in your field?
When I entered in to my freshman year at West Virginia Wesleyan College, I had connections in the scheduling office (which was a huge help). I had a schedule filled with Gen Eds, but I had one spot open for a class of my choice. I immediately requested a psychology course, even with my Undeclared Major. I had the opportunity to take AP Psych in high school and I loved every second of it. The woman I knew in the scheduling office felt that it was not the right fit for me, so she scheduled an Intro to Education course instead. I was hesitant at first, but I am so thankful for that one decision. My professor, Dr. Bush, was a phenomenal Christian woman, teacher, and adviser. She made the class challenging, yet very rewarding. I learned a great deal of information from her and fell in love with the education field. Within weeks time, I had declared two majors: Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies and a History major. I will always look back on my experience at Wesleyan, the friends I made, and the professors that guided me with a smile on my face. It led me to where I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful!
When did you find your passion for the outdoors?
I have admired the outdoors from a young age. My father is an avid outdoorsman. He raised my brother and I to be very appreciative of God’s work and to find enjoyment in every journey. My mother and father took us horseback riding, camping, swimming, and four-wheeler riding quite often. We would also visit nearby attractions, such as: Audra State Park, Reddish Knob, Seneca Rocks, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Pringle Tree, among others. We would drive to these locations and spend hours learning the history or its relevance to someone in our family. (Side note: If you would like to meet walking history encyclopedias, then my dad’s family is your best bet.)
What is your favorite place to explore?
This is a hard one. I would have to say Tucker County, West Virginia. The entire state of West Virginia offers attractions that can fill your whole day with beauty, adventure, and photo-worthy moments. However, there is just something about Tucker County that truly surpasses all others. It may be the extremely kind residents who always greet you when they see you. Or perhaps it’s the nice cup of coffee you can get at Tip Top Coffee Shop in Thomas. Maybe it’s the endless amount of hikes, waterfalls, and trails that you can plan your entire day around. Or it could simply be that I am in love with the pizza from Sirianni’s Cafe and vegetarian burritos from neighboring Hellbenders. Whatever it may be, I absolutely love traveling to Tucker County. I want to note that two of my very close friends (Kelsey and Zach) live in the area as well, so that may just be the reason why I love it there so much. 😉 Over 100+ trips and it never gets old. Not to quote Foreigner, but “it feels like the first time” every time you visit Tucker County. Your level of excitement is just the same as the first time you traveled there. It should definitely be a mark on everyone’s Bucket List!
How many of the 50 United States have you visited? Favorite?
I have visited 16 of the 50 states. However pathetic that sounds, I do plan on visiting more in the near future. My favorite state is Virginia. It is filled with rich history, and for a social studies teacher, the feeling you get when you visit is comparable to winning the lottery. (Ok, I am being dramatic, but trust me it is ALMOST as good as that) Virginia is home to America’s first permanent settlement, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War, and is the birthplace of 8 U.S. Presidents. I mean…how cool is that?! I also love Colonial Willamsburg. I make sure to add that to my to-do list each summer! It is slowly but surely becoming a family tradition!
How many countries, where?
I have only been to one country aside from our own: Germany. It is my home away from home. I’ve only visited the northeastern portion, but I plan on visiting the southern half, among other European countries very soon.
Best hike you have ever had?
To be honest, every hike I have ever been on is the best hike. Any chance that I get to relieve my mind of stress, I run with it.
Essential items for summer hikes/winter hikes.
You should always have a tool for navigation, unless the area you are traveling to is practically engraved in your brain. You should have a map and GPS present at all times. If you know where you are, you should know how to get home. I always pack a GPS with maps already loaded, a printed map, guidebook and hike printouts. Of course, a compass is always beneficial, as well. Other items would definitely be sunglasses, sunscreen, flashlights and headlamps (with backup bulbs), a first-aid kit, fire starter kit, pocket knife/multi-tool, utility cords, nutrient-rich foods like granola and nuts, WATER, water purifier, a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, bear spray, and a signaling device (whistle, flare, satellite texting device) (sometimes costly but life saving). Now of course, this is ultimately for a hiking trip that will have you traveling off the grid or disappearing for a few days. You should always be prepared for any situation nevertheless, but packing some of those items – even on minor trips – can be helpful. My go-to short day hiking trip necessities are maps, water, snacks, a first-aid kit, my hammock, sunglasses, sunscreen, a change of clothes, hair ties, a rain jacket, whistle, my Canon camera, and tripod! I also take a blanket to sit on if I plan on admiring a view for awhile.
Most comical hike/adventure story?
My mother and I planned a hiking trip to a secluded waterfall that we had never visited before. We were anxious, but excited to try something new! My mom often accompanies me on adventures, but she does not like traveling into the “unknown.” As we were driving, my GPS glitched and rerouted itself, leading us down a different road. As the hours passed, she and I knew that we were clueless of our whereabouts, but neither person wanted to admit it out loud. We had no cell service and since most payphones are virtually nonexistent, we were helpless. My mom finally found signs for nearby tourist attractions and discovered that we were bordering the state of Kentucky – literally miles and miles off course. Needless to say, BRING A BACKUP MAP. Do not place all of your faith into your cell phone. Trust me, it could fail you at any given moment.
Scariest hike/adventure story?
I do not have any scary hiking stories on my resume. However, I do have a scary adventure story that I can tell. I went rafting with my best friend Jordan in 2010. It had recently rained and the river was perfect for a rafting-day adventure. For most of the trip, the rapids were mild and exciting. Some of the trip was relaxing. However, right at the end, the rapids began to pick up. I ended up falling out and getting trapped between two rocks where the water coursed through. I had scratches down my chest and back. I knew I could easily drown, especially if I managed to find myself pinned beneath the massive rock. I thankfully was pulled out by a man who climbed above me to pull me free from the water’s grasp. It was a terrifying experience. Still to this day I experience PTSD from my near-death experience.
Upcoming trips planned?
This year, I am planning trips like crazy! I plan on visiting my usual pit stops: Blackwater Falls State Park, Seneca Rocks, Douglas Falls, Babcock State Park, Hawks Nest, Elakala Falls, Coopers Rock, and Lindy Point. Other trips on the schedule for this year include Niagra Falls, Philadelphia, Mount Vernon, Harpers Ferry, Falling Spring Falls, and Dolly Sods. My mom and I will also be traveling to Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. Another trip that is currently “in the works” is the UK! I am super excited to get the ball rolling on these.
Favorite outdoors gear/lifestyle companies? Any local?
I couldn’t adventure without my Lifeproof case. I also love my Sperry boots (but for more durability – I recommend a Vasque Breeze hiking boot or something similar). Chacos are also a must! GoPro, Patagonia, The North Face, Happy Earth, The Parks Apparel, Columbia, Backcountry – for tents and other hiking gear, Arbor Creek – for hammocks, and REI are also amazing brands, Local companies that I simply love are Wild Wonderful Lifestyle Co, Loving WV, and of course, JKG Outdoors!
What does conservation mean to you?
Conservation, in the big picture, means putting selfish needs aside and realizing that the earth and all of its inhabitants are vital parts of our community. Conservation also means taking responsible action to ensure the livelihood of our planet. A sustainable life is not possible unless we conserve the earth’s species, protect our wildernesses, respect our resources, and preserve ecosystems.
What can we do to make sure our parks and wild lands stay clean and pure forever?
We can recycle our waste, for starters, and change over to biodegradable items to replace plastic. We can participate in trash cleanups and restoration projects. We can donate to organizations that fight to protect our wildlife and the environment. We can be better humans. We can learn to care more, have a heart, and love the planet that we were graciously given to live on.
I would love to hear your feedback on this section and always feel free to ask questions. The explorers would be more than happy to answer any questions you have for them. Looking forward to the next interview. And thank you again, Sydney!