Young Adults Nature Based Rite of Passage


Jun 15th, 2024 - Jun 26th, 2024 | Inyo Mountains - Big Pine, California | Nick LaHaise, Gretchen (Grae) Gerlach

Every summer the School of Lost Borders offers nature based rites of passage for young people age 18-28 ready to confirm their entry into adulthood in the eastern mountains of Payahuunadü (also known as the Inyo Mountains outside of Big Pine, California). These are the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Nüümü and Newe people.

Nearly every culture on the planet shows evidence of a ceremonial marking of the passage from youth to adulthood, undertaken consciously and witnessed by the community. Marking the threshold of adulthood takes great courage, perhaps now more than ever before as young people face growing stressors of environmental and social crises. With the intention of finding and facing your deepest truths, your strengths and weaknesses, you turn toward the critical questions: “Who am I to be in the world?” “What are my gifts?” And perhaps “What is needed now?”

The wilderness rite of passage is an opportunity to bring your whole being into contact with the natural world, including your concerns, your challenges, your grief and your prayers, your rage and your fragility…as well as the dreams only you can dream. 

The solo fast requires a willingness to go alone in the high desert of the Inyo Mountains for three days and nights without food and minimal shelter. It is a ceremony of wholeness and belonging, in which profound bonds with inner and outer nature, self and community may be discovered. Each will come to and return from the solo time with a unique story to share and be witnessed in a story council.

Program Overview: This eleven-day program is divided into three sections; severance, threshold, and incorporation. The first few days are a time of separation from your daily life, physical preparation, and becoming clear on your intention for going out alone into the natural world. The threshold time is your solo time – three days and nights alone on the land. Finally, the days spent after the solo are the first days of your year-long incorporation experience, where you will learn to work with the gifts you bring to the new phase of life you are entering. Our program includes an incorporation call a season after we return, September 2023.

Program Questions Contact: Gretchen Gerlach via


TUITION: $1,000 - $3,000

Sliding Scale: To honor the vast difference of financial resources among us, all of our program tuition is based on a sliding scale. We set forth no criteria and ask that you pay what is appropriate for your circumstances and access to financial resources. You can see recommendations on using the sliding scale here. If the low end of the sliding scale is still too much, scholarship assistance is available , please reach out to the office for more info.

Cancellations: Cancellations are hard on the participant, the School, and the guides. We respect the unpredictability of life, and we are diligent about running an organization sustainably.

-If you cancel 60 or more days prior to the start date of your program, you will receive a full refund of any tuition paid, minus any deposits.

-If you cancel 59 days or less prior to the start date of your program, and we can fill your spot, then you will receive a full refund of any tuition paid, minus any deposits.

-If we cannot fill your spot, and you cancel within 59 days of the start of your program, then we hold you accountable for paying the tuition at the lowest end of the sliding scale.

Submit enrollment form

 Please fill out and submit the enrollment form and then pay the program deposit below. Before you pay the deposit, please read deposit section below, all deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable. After your enrollment form is complete, please submit all health and liability forms.

Pay program deposit

Deposits: This deposit signifies your commitment to the program and is deducted from the tuition balance. All deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable. They cover the work of the specific course you signed up for, including all communication involved as well as the fee that guides pay to the school administration for the course accounting. 

Additional Deposit: Some programs require a second deposit to help us affirm commitments. Last minute cancellations make it hard to fill openings and incur a loss of income to the School and the guides.

Tuition Balance: Balance of tuition can be paid before or upon arrival. Simply deduct any deposits made from the amount you’ve chosen on the sliding scale.

Submit Waitlist form

This program is full; however, you may add your name to the Waitlist by clicking the Waitlist button below.

Additional course details & Materials


Please plan to arrive by the afternoon of June 15th. We will complete our time late afternoon or early evening of June 26th. Additional information will be provided upon enrollment.

ADDITIONAL FEES: Camping Fee $50 per individual will be collected at the time of the program.

We will give a packing list and more preparation details by email.

You will be responsible for bringing your own food and equipment, though we can provide some gear if needed. We ask everyone to come prepared to live self-sufficiently. You will need to bring shelter and clothing suitable for a full range of inclement weather. 

To address safety concerns during the pandemic, please contact us regarding our current Coronavirus protocols as well as any current travel restrictions. These protocols may affect how you are able to travel to the program. Please note: As of May 2023 there are no longer any vaccination requirements for international travellers seeking entry to the USA.

All participants must submit the required health questionnaire and liability form.

If you have questions about the enrollment process contact us at [email protected] or call 760-938-3333.

Coming of Age in the Wilderness, A Handbook for Youth by Steven Foster & Meredith Little (included in tuition).

Although not required, the video Lost Borders: Coming of Age in the Wilderness by Kim Shelton, skillfully portrays the powerful dimensions of this experience.

All publications are available through Lost Borders Press.

We will gather in the eastern mountains of Payahuunadü (also known as the Inyo Mountains outside of Big Pine, California). These are the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Nüümü and Newe people.

To learn more about our commitment to regenerative relationships please visit Cultural Relations.