Young Adults Nature Based Rite of Passage


Jun 13th, 2024 - Jun 24th, 2024 | Inyo Mountains - Big Pine, California | Nick LaHaise, Gretchen (Grae) Gerlach

  You are a young person in this world, with childhood behind you, no longer a teenager, you have aged into the phase of young adulthood. 

Are you an adult? How? When? Why?

 What does being an adult mean to you? Who are you at your core?

 What are your gifts, your callings, your contributions to this world?

Who sees you as an adult?


Nearly every culture on the planet shows historic evidence of a ceremonial marking of the passage from adolescence to adulthood, undertaken consciously and witnessed by the community. An initiation marking this passage into adulthood and responsible participation in the world can be seen as an integral part of human development.

However, many modern societies have lost such traditions. Without cultural support, young people may try to initiate themselves, by rebelling and testing their limits through extreme experiences, behaviors, and expressions, trying to prove…..something. Or young people can be left feeling lost and confused, their search for an authentic self-knowing never takes place, and they settle to conform and accept the status quo.


“We young people need invitations in our own lives to understand how these times are really initiating us as humanity to be more awake,aware, caring, and responsible for ourselves, our people and the Earth.” -Justine Epstein Age24

Our world needs initiated young adults, people who have faced their deepest truths and turned towards the hard, critical questions in order to define their unique expression of adulthood, contribute their gifts to the world, and pursue their purpose.

 With the support of programs like this one, communities, families, and individuals are realizing and remembering how important rites of passage traditions are to not only human development but cultural well being, and human relationships with the natural world.


This young adult wilderness rite of passage is both an opportunity and a challenge of initiation. It is a ceremony of inquiry, and insight, in which profound relationships with inner and outer nature, self and community may be realized. When clarity of identity will be explored and expression of purpose will be sought.

We will create the space for you to explore vital aspects of yourself, and to ask the critical questions of your identity.

We invite you to immerse your whole being into contact with the natural world. Bring 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 ceremony portion of this program requires a willingness to go alone into the high desert of the Inyo Mountains for three days and nights without food and minimal shelter.

As a group, we will engage in experiences that allow us to be truly seen in our wholeness, to witness each other and to share our unique intentions, perspectives and stories.

This program will create a space to cultivate self-trust, responsibility, and a personal understanding of one’s innate belonging & unique place in society and the natural world in these intensifying times.



It is not easy, 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.

This program is different from other programs because our group will share a common thread of age (18-28) and courageous intention of ceremonially stepping into, defining and claiming their unique adult identity.

“My own ceremony on the mountain is still the source of strength, inspiration and prayer that allows me to take the whole world-its shadow and its light- into my heart, and decide from there what is mine to do.”  -Justine Epstein Age24


This 11 day program will take place 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.

We will be immersed in remote nature, camping, cooking and living together and alone on wildlands, for the duration of our program.

Our program is divided into three phases; Preparation, Threshold, and Incorporation. It is important to learn about each phase of the program.


Preparation for your wilderness Rite of Passage begins long before we gather in person. Perhaps it even began months before you enrolled; with curiosity to seek an out-of-the-ordinary experience, to immerse in wildlands, to explore yourself, to claim your identity.

Upon enrollment, we will support your preparation by scheduling a 1:1 call between you and your rite of passage guide to discuss any questions you may have. We will also send you important preparation information including logistics, equipment lists and foundations of safety. Additionally, we will ask each participant to write a Letter of Intention, explaining what calls them to participate in this program.

When our program begins, our first 4 days will be dedicated to preparation through refining individual intentions, learning and engaging with self-generated ceremony, orienting to the natural world and safety.


The threshold phase will be your “Solo ceremony” a 3 day and 3 night time of solitude. During this time you will be immersed in nature with a simple shelter, and the invitation to fast from food, distractions and interactions with other people. This is your time for self-generated ceremony, a time of clarity, of challenge and of transformation.

While you will be alone in nature, there is a system of ensuring your safety and wellbeing daily. Additionally, guides will be available at basecamp, in case of an emergency.


Our final phase will be Incorporation. During the days after your solo ceremony we will begin incorporation through council practices of sharing and holding each other’s stories and group ceremonies. Additionally, we will turn towards “how to bring your experience, gifts, and identity home” and how to close our time in Payahuunadü together.

While these are the last days of our program, they are the first days of your year-long incorporation experience. During this time you will likely be challenged to integrate your Rite of Passage into your living and rewarded by your efforts. In order to support your year of incorporation, we will all commit to participating in one virtual group call a few months after our program ends.

Program Questions Contact: Gretchen Gerlach via [email protected]

Watch previous participants experience in their own words here: 











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 13th. We will complete our time late afternoon or early evening of June 24th. 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. 

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.