Come ski with us!

The Touch the Earth Outdoor Recreation Program offers five to six Cataloochee Ski and Snowboard Day Trips throughout the months of January and February. The costs of these trips are as follows: $42 – Students/ $50 –Faculty & Staff/ $55 –Guests. These prices include ski rental, beginner lesson, lift ticket, and transportation. To sign up, please come into our office during our normal hours of operation (10am-6pm Monday-Fridays, excluding University holidays).

This winter season, Touch the Earth is hosting a series of ski and snowboard trips to the Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, North Carolina on the following dates:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday, February 24, 2014

Take a gander at some testimonials from past Cataloochee trips:

“I used to snowboard where there is “the best snow on earth”–Salt Lake City, Utah. I haven’t been there in 10 years and only snowboarded once in Boston. Going to Cataloochee brought me so much joy! The first time I fell quite a bit considering I used to do it more often,  [but] after…I was riding smoothly all day! I didn’t want to stop. I met some great people and I was happy to see so many giving it a try for the first time. I enjoyed connecting with nature at this level. Nature offers us so many gifts and [Cataloochee] is one of them. I remember going to the highest slope and looking at the mountain range, feeling the breeze, and I just softly said, “thank you God.” It was beautiful.

Since I’m a sound recorder, I couldn’t help but record the sound of me snowboarding. I [used] my handheld recorder and rode down a few times with it. You can hear the “swoosh” , “hiss” and “crunch” of a one of my rides at this link:

I hope just hearing the sound makes you want to go on the next Cataloochee trip!”

– Daniel Badi Rinaldi, Cataloochee Trip Participant 2012


“Going skiing has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Something about being on top of a mountain and soaking up all the natural beauty around you at high speeds awakes the inner adrenaline junkie inside you. Nothing can describe the feeling of cold mountain air rushing past as you propel your body into new speeds. Moving from northern California to Georgia puts some restraints on the availability of skiing time, or snow for that matter.

Planning a trip can become stressful quickly. Between rental, lift tickets, and gas you can easily spend over $100 on a day trip; which is out of the question on a meager student budget.

Luckily, Georgia State University has the Touch the Earth Outdoor Recreation Program. This was my third Cataloochee Ski and Snowboard trip. Because of Touch the Earth, I am able to afford to get my ski fix and have these amazing experiences. Being surrounded by a group of people who can’t wait to fly down the mountain creates an all-star group of thrill seekers. Friends are made out of sharing a lift together and taking on the black diamond as a team. The ride home is spent hearing hilarious stories of trips and falls from your van-mates, making the ride easy and entertaining. The friendships made on Touch the Earth trips are lasting and the van rides create an exclusive group of road warriors. I can’t wait to sign up for [the upcoming] rafting trip. I guarantee [that] it is going to be amazing.”

-Nancy Anderson, Cataloochee Trip Participant 2012


Raft Guide School- Spring 2012

When I saw the first rapid, I wanted to pull the raft over and let Chris take this rapid. I’ll get the next, smaller, not so scary one. Too late!


If you’ve ever been whitewater rafting, you’ve experienced the adrenaline rush of going into a rapid. Water is flying all around you. You’re paddling as fast as your arms can go. The raft is bouncing around, and for a second you think you might flip and fall into the raging water surrounding you. Now imagine guiding a raft into that and the sense of accomplishment you have once you’ve conquered the rapid.

Touch the Earth’s Raft Guide School was a weekend full of rafting, river lunches, team building, and the occasional man overboard. We started on the Nantahala River which means “Land of the Noon Day Sun”. If you’ve never been in the river, you might think that it’s a warm river [that] you can swim in and relax on. A better name would be “Land of the Freezing Water”. Surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to become lost in nature and forget that the water is 52 degrees [Fahrenheit], but a quick splash in the face reminds you. After a day of guiding the Nantahala, I felt confident in my ability to read a river and keep my crew safe.

The Ocoee is a whole different beast. It’s easy to be intimidated by it with rapids fondly named Table Saw, Broken Nose, Flipper, and Double Trouble. I’ll admit it. The Ocoee scares me.

My raft (aka Team Raft) consisted of [the leader] Micah, Chris, and me.  When Micah handed me the guide stick, I went from being scared to [being] downright fearful. I mentally pumped myself up with some positive affirmations and climbed onto the back of the raft. When I saw the first rapid, I wanted to pull the raft over and let Chris take this rapid. I’ll get the next, smaller, not so scary one. Too late! The rapid was in front of us and I had no choice but to [woman]-up and guide my little raft through it. Water started splashing into the boat, we started spinning, and I was doing all that I could to avoid the huge rock on either side of us. Listening to Micah’s instructions, I was able to guide it. My confidence soared and I had the biggest grin on my face. Our team did our paddle high-five and we were ready to take on the next rapid the Ocoee threw at us.

Throughout the weekend, we grew as a team and constantly told each other how amazing everyone was doing. In new situations, it’s easy to become frustrated when faced with a difficult task. Team Raft did a great job of pumping each other up and easing the frustration. After watching a few other groups learning to guide, I’m glad I did it with Touch the Earth. The smaller group gave everyone more time to guide and allowed us to help each other. Without everyone’s positive attitude, I’m not sure I could have done it.

We ended the trip eating Mexican food in Copperhill, TN on Easter. All off us [smelled] river funky fresh, [ and were] laughing about the bloopers over the weekend. I’m looking forward to the next Nantahala trip when we can all work together again as Raft Guide School graduates.  

~Nancy Anderson

  Raft Guide School Graduate

Cape Lookout National Seashore

I guess the snorting woke me up. It was just before dawn and a light breeze kept our tent animated on the island’s sandy beach. As I peered through the mesh door of our tent and squinted to focus in the half-light, several dark shapes came into focus. It was low tide and the Shackleford horses were grazing on supple grasses just a few yards from our tent.

Excited, but cautious, I slowly unzipped the tent flap and glided to get my camera. By the time I had the camera on the tripod I was already regretting being outside the tent. The night before had been shared with a relatively typical population of mosquitos. But now, with the tide low and the breeze waning, I was inundated with an altogether new pest.

I honestly don’t know what they were, but they were nearly invisible, biting and numerous. I captured two exposures before being vanquished and running slapping and scratching back to the tent. Safely inside, I drifted back to sleep to the sound of hooves on damp sand.

Shackleford Banks Touch The Earth Photo By Clinton Begley

Camping on The Shackleford Banks

Our trip to Cape Lookout National Seashore was rife with such odd and beautiful experiences. Myriad shorebirds, armies of crabs and beautiful sunsets punctuated our challenges in negotiating tide patterns and dealing with biting insects. Yet every challenge magnified the rewards of the beauty and fun we were able to experience.

Cape Lookout National Seashore Sunset | Photo By Clinton Begley

Sunset on the first Night on Cape Lookout

As a leader, it was great to be able to experience such a great place with such a great group of people. I’ve always been impressed by the caliber of participants we have on our trips and their contribution to the trip experiences have always been just as important and powerful as the careful planning by our TTE staff and marvelous landscapes we visit. Thanks Cape Lookout Crew for helping our trip to be a memorable one.

-Clinton Begley
Touch The Earth Trip Leader

Final Approaches With Touch The Earth

Pulling up to the launch pad on top of lookout mountain was somewhat of an eerie spectacle. It was somewhere around 9:00 am, and low clouds hung just off the concrete ramp and obstructed our view of the ground below. We could only speculate as to the true nature of the precipice before us. As each of us filled out forms and mentally prepared for our flight, the clouds began to dissipate at the mercy of July’s morning sun.
Soon, a valley floor became visible, as well as a small grass landing strip stamped with tiny white triangles. Moments later we’d learn that this landing strip would be our point of take off.

Jumping from the mountain top, it seems, is a more advanced hang gliding maneuver. Instead, we’d be towed to an altitude twice the height of the mountain by a small ultralight airplane before being cut loose and coasting back to terra firma.

A short drive down the mountain brought us to our runway. Instructional videos, appropriate safety equipment and a basic briefing set the tone for each of our trips. One by one we’d each be called to suit up and prepare for lift off. The anticipation built with each speedy takeoff and wide eyed smiling return.

The experience was excellent. The experience falls somewhere between a smooth as silk roller-coaster ride and dangling ones feet from the roof of a skyscraper. By and large the ride is as smooth as you choose it to be! Once the plane cut us loose, the instructor gave a brief in air demonstration before handing over the controls. The view alone was amazing, and the feeling of being so high and nearly weightless for such a long duration is a unique one that sets itself apart from the free-fall of skydiving. My instructor, Ozzy, let me bring the glider in hot and “buzz the tower” on our final approach before touching down smoothly on the green Georgia grass below.

The trip was memorable for me in many ways. Aside from adding a new exhilarating item to my growing list of fulfilling life experiences, some great students came along for the ride and made the experience that much more enjoyable. As the last trip I would lead this summer in conclusion of my internship at Georgia State, getting to see such a beautiful part of Georgia from thousands of feet above and touch down gracefully square in the middle of the amazing landscape seemed an appropriate and poetic finale for an amazing summer at Touch The Earth.

-Clinton Begle
Touch The Earth Trip Leader

Whitewater Kayaking School Summer 2011

This past weekend Touch The Earth concluded it’s Summer Whitewater Kayaking School on the Tuckaseegee and Nantahala rivers. Beginning with four pool sessions at the Indian Creek swimming pool the proceeding weeks, the class provided expert instruction by Touch The Earth coordinator Carson Tortorige. Twelve students participated in learning the basics of whitewater kayaking. Most students had never been in a kayak of any kind before, yet by the time we reached Lesser Wesser falls (the last drop on the Nantahala river) on Sunday, they had every skill necessary to navigate the class III rapid safely. The class included the basics of proper stroke technique, bracing, edge control and hydrology (reading the water’s features).

Having kayaked for years with self taught skills, the class was valuable even to me as I learned the appropriate and “textbook” skills needed to be more comfortable “on edge” and really hone my skills on catching even the smallest and tightest of eddys.

Lesser Wesser Falls on the Nantahala River (Class III)

Lesser Wesser Falls on the Nantahala River (Class III)

Because of my partial role as volunteer assistant for the course, it was a real treat to see each student overcome his or her aprehensions and anxieties as the course progressed. Many of the students were nervous even in the swimming pool the first couple of days, but to see the confidence and enthusiasm emerge over the course of the class was a pleasure to witness and be a part of.

Carson and I are increadibly proud of each of the students who participated, and we look forward to seeing their interest in the sport grow as they take on new and more challenging rivers in the years to come.

-Clinton Begley
Touch The Earth Intern

June Horseback Riding Trip Delivers A Unique Experience

Touch The Earth Horseback Riding Trip

Trip Leader Bobby Wess Poses With his Crew

If you’re looking for astounding views, fresh air and never ending fun, Touch The Earth can bring it to you.  On my very first trip I went horseback riding.  The horses were gentle and well trained, the guides were friendly, and the mountain views along the trail were amazing.  Even the ride up was memorable and filled with laughs.  The group I had the pleasure of traveling with was extremely diverse.  We enjoyed a meal together while sharing stories about our many different countries and majors.  By the end of the trip we were no longer strangers.

My compliments to the Touch The Earth staff. Each and every time I enter the office I am greeted with warm smiles and exemplary service.  I greatly appreciate the positive attitudes I have encountered.  Thank you TTE!  I can’t wait for my next adventure with you to begin!

Touch The Earth Trip Participant

A Snowcovered Spring in Yosemite

Waking up to Halfdome in Yosemite National Park - Touch The Earth Maymester- Photo By Clinton Begley

Maymester in Yosemite - Photo by Clinton Begley

Flakes of snow weave paths of argyle through the needles of yellow pine and incense cedar as my three tent mates and I tell stories and recount the events of the day. Strangers just days earlier, we now laugh and joke with trail-earned comfort. It’s the evening of day five, and although we don’t yet know it, our morning will bring with it rarely seen vistas of a Yosemite icon. Half Dome powdered with spring snow will welcome us and signal the final leg of our journey into the valley of Muir and Adams.

Blizzard Incomming - Yosemite National Park - Photo by Carson Tortorige

Incomming Blizzard - Photo by Carson Tortorige

Beginning days earlier at the southern apex of Yosemite National Park in Wawona, California our group of ten set out to climb the Chilnualna falls trail 2,400 vertical feet to the unseasonably low May snow line. Over the course of the days that followed, our group hiked, snowshoed, sweat and shivered nearly 30 miles through the vast Yosemite National Park wilderness. But as our trip leader Carson commented later, the magnitude of our journey could not only be measured in miles. Our determination, fitness and skills in navigation were put to the test as our team worked together to cross swollen rivers, ascend rocky outcroppings and traverse the undulating mountain terrain. As the first group to explore the southern back-country of Yosemite in 2011, we saw no human tracks in the Sierra snow except our own. Yet tracks of black bear, mountain lion, hare, deer and squirrel were plentiful and powerful reminders of our roles as guests in the rugged forests and snow-covered meadows of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Bear Prints in Yosemite - Photo By Travis Tortorige

Bear Prints in Yosemite - Photo By Travis Tortorige

After our several thousand foot descent into Yosemite Valley, the team spent a day freely roaming the awe inspiring glacially carved canyon surrounding us. We rubbed our eyes in disbelief of the living postcard in which we found ourselves and relaxed in the warm sun along the banks of the Merced river. I often reflect quietly upon the accomplishments of our journey. Especially now, as the sweat collects on upon my brow in the Southern heat, I often think back to the morning ritual of dressing inside the relative warmth of our tent before emerging into the bright, crisp and breathtakingly beautiful landscape of Yosemite National Park.

-Clinton Begley
Yosemite Co-Leader
Intern – Touch The Earth