Hot Tang or Hot Chocolate? The NOLS Experience in 1965 and Today

By Larkin Flora

Aug 24, 2015


NOLS Pizza Love Melty cheese is delicious no matter what year you took your course. Photo by Nicholas Byrne.


In case you haven’t heard yet, NOLS turns 50 in October. One way we’re celebrating is by comparing what students did on their courses when we started in 1965 and what shenanigans they’re up to today.

We reached out to two NOLS alumni to compare: Andy Carson, a former instructor and student on the first course in 1965, and Grace Kerner, a 13-year-old student at the Archer School for Girls, which partners with NOLS Professional Training to send students on week-long courses. They confirmed the long-held beliefs that cheese is always a hit, music is the key to happiness, and nothing beats the wilderness experience.

What was your favorite piece of gear on your course?

Grace: My sleeping bag. It was cozy and warm at nights when I needed it to be, and waking up at 4 a.m. to see the stars I could cuddle up in it and watch from my bag.

Andy: An ice axe. It is such a simple but indispensable tool, and, along with a rope, is the classic symbol of alpine travel. It seemed so exotic to me at the time, never having handled one.

What was your favorite meal out of the NOLS Cookery?

Grace: Cheesy bagels. We would light the stove and then place the pan o the stove, then you put the bagels into it and put some cheese on top and let it melt. It is so good.

Andy: Mac and cheese. Quickly, in a billycan, with lots of cheese and lots of oil (bring on the calories). A billycan was the standard tool when cooking on a campfire.


Enjoying the Camaraderie of the Mountains No matter your age, it's hard to beat being in the outdoors! Photo by William Henderson.


Hot Tang or hot chocolate?

Grace: Definitely hot chocolate ... Hot Tang is just not my kind of tea.

Andy: How about “warm green death,” a hot lime Jello-O drink? It didn’t coat teeth but it did look alarming—down it went.

What was the one song you couldn’t get out of your head on your course?

Grace: I believe it was, “We are Never Getting Back Together,” by Taylor Swift, it’s just such a catchy song.

Andy: “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. It was on constant play on any radio station in the frontcountry.

Plenty has changed in the last 50 years, but plenty has stayed the same. You can visit our history page to learn more about what’s happened at NOLS in the last 50 years.

What memories do you have from your course of special hot drinks, mysterious meals, and group sing-alongs? Share your memories on our Facebook page!

Adapted from The Leader, Summer 2015.

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Larkin Flora

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