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Outreach Director

The Petroglyph | Reflections of a Visiting Alumna

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In the September 2016 Issue of The Petroglyph…

It is always a pleasure to host alumni at Basecamp, and this summer we were visited by a handful of members of the Deer Hill Circle. One of those visitors was Deer Hill Alumna, Katie Spegar (Marin Waldorf 8th Grade Class, 2016). Katie brought her family to visit Basecamp and her service hosts’ homestead on the Navajo Nation. Best of all, she is willing to share her reflections with us.

The banded canyon walls of the Lower San Juan River, where Katie’s class rafted last April.

My Return to Deer Hill and the Navajo Nation

Katie Spegar, Alumna (Marin Waldorf 8th Grade Class, April 2016)

Katie cleaning up the site at the Clarks’ homestead in the Navajo Nation.

Do you know that feeling when you get home from a life-changing trip, and you try to share your experience with your family and friends, hoping they can somehow relate? How do you find the right words to describe all that you saw, and did, and felt?

Well, that’s how it was for me last spring when my classmates from Marin Waldorf School and I returned from an incredible 10-day Deer Hill field trip through the American Southwest. As we departed Deer Hill’s Basecamp for home, waving goodbye as we travelled down the bumpy gravel road, I still remember hearing a little voice inside myself saying this would not be the last time I would be in this beautiful place.

I imagined trying to tell my family about the trip. How could I describe the unique red rock formations we hiked around, and the rushing mud-colored waters of the San Juan River we rafted? How could they imagine this cozy little basecamp, with rustic buildings and delicious home-cooked meals surrounded by the cliffs below Mesa Verde? How to bring to life the ceremonies and warmth of our host family, Gwen and Ferlin Clark, at their Navajo homestead with its craggy red cliffs, fragrant green sage brush, and heavy clay soil that caked our hiking boots? There was no way to describe the tasty fry bread we ate there, after a day of working on their land. I remembered the Clark’s enthusiastic, sincere invitation to us all to return for a visit, if we were ever again near their part of the world. All of these wonderful memories and feelings were swirling inside of me.

Then something great, and unexpected, happened. My parents announced that we were going on a road trip in July to explore some of the National Parks and back roads of America. We voted on where we might go on our road trip, so I saw my chance and jumped at the idea of returning to Deer Hill. Happily, everyone agreed to put it on our itinerary.

A group paddles out one of the lesser rapids

Rippling sand waves in the “rushing, mud-colored waters” of the San Juan River.

So, why return? I am sure I am not alone in saying that there were things about my experience at Deer Hill that left a big impression. First of all, the instructors from Deer Hill were incredible. They were inspiring, knowledgeable, skilled and prepared in helping us meet the physical and technical challenges we faced. For one thing, last spring was filled with unpredictable and changeable weather— everything from a late, sloshy snowfall and slippery sleet to high winds, pounding rain and booming thunder and lightning. With ease, care and humor our guides helped us meet these physical tests. Secondly, we spent 24 hours a day with our instructors on a 5-day river trip, and a 4-day service project—we got to know each other pretty well. I loved learning that some of them were Waldorf graduates themselves and ski patrollers and paramedics, too. Hearing their stories made me want to be like them, and possibly follow a similar path into outdoor environmental work with students. And one of my favorite memories comes from our time at Basecamp after our expedition and service projects: some of us joined together to jam on piano and the guitar, singing songs from the songbooks in the warm, spacious house where the founders raised their three kids.

Photos: Hiking the Honaker Trail high above the San Juan River.
The play of sun and shadow bring the texture of the canyons to life.
Most of Katie’s leader team (that’s D, referenced below, in the blue shirt).

When we went back this summer, it was both very familiar and very different. Gone were my classmates and teachers, and most of the wonderful instructors I had grown so fond of. Instead, Deer Hill was at a lull in the summer programs and instead of lots of usual bustling and energy, Basecamp was relaxing and peaceful. Jordan, Deer Hill’s Admissions Manager, invited us to poke around and look in on the familiar land and the buildings, and I found the easy energy and friendly staff to be as wonderful as I had remembered them. It turned out that one of the same instructors from my trip, Danielle or “D,” as she liked to be called, was guiding one of the summer trips. We had the chance to exchange a hug and some funny stories from our time together and I loved seeing her familiar face. I got the sense that enrolling in a summer program with Deer Hill would give me the opportunity to do more of the amazing things I did with my class: to create more memories, to float different rivers, to try new outdoor adventures, and make great friends.

After Deer Hill, we drove to see the Clarks (our service hosts from my class trip) on their Navajo homestead. They were so happy that we returned and went out of their way to make us comfortable, including a fry bread meal. In fact, Ferlin Clark said during the ten years they have hosted Deer Hill students, I was the first student who took them up on their offer to return. Not only did they welcome us to stay the night and eat with them, but they also invited us to attend a big ceremony in a neighboring Pueblo called Santo Domingo. As their guests, we attended Santo Domingo’s traditional harvest festival where we saw hundreds and hundreds of Puebloans dance their “corn harvest dance” in the plaza, and were generously invited to dine at the tables of the Governors of the Pueblo. The food they shared with us was delicious and the red chili sauce was rich and spicy! We were able to experience parts of Puebolan life that most non-Native Americans would never imagine. As we parted ways, we felt so grateful to the Clarks for their hospitality and sharing of Native American customs, both Navajo and Puebloan.

Gwen Clark making frybread with Katie’s class.

Ferlin Clark bringing a hammer to some participants.

I hope to return to Deer Hill one summer to join a longer, more challenging outdoor adventure with them. With my love of the outdoors, taking on physical challenges and making music, I feel as though I may have found my new tribe.

Summer Expeditions

2017 Summer Expeditions will be announced in November; stay tuned to learn about Sibling and Alumni Discounts, and to see what we’ll be offering.

Custom Group Programs

At the time of this writing, there is still space on the spring calendar for Custom Group Programs, although the most popular times are filling up fast. Contact Gabriel to book a trip for your class, organization or family: [email protected] or by phone at 970-533-7492.

The Petroglyph | Spring Returns

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In the March 2016 Issue of The Petroglyph…

  • Amanda Sturner on Experiential Education
  • What Deer Hill Means to Me, Ambassador Beth Capelin
  • Meet the New Faces at Basecamp
  • In Photos: Spring at Deer Hill
  • Still Time to Find Yourself this Summer

The Life-Changing Power of Experiential Education

Amanda Sturner, Life Coach, RMT Certified

“I Hear and I Forget, I See and I Remember, I Do and I Understand.” – Chinese Proverb

At age 16, my parents suggested I embark on an experiential education adventure. They saw me spending too much time on the phone, idly chatting with friends, and my general lack of motivation and direction. My grades were just okay, and as a cross-country and track runner, I came in mid-pack during races. My parents saw average, and they were right. I was not living at my potential. After two weeks in the wilderness with a group of strangers, I returned home a different person. My grades became straight A’s and I won my races. Not because I studied longer or trained more. My mindset had shifted; I was capable of anything. Experiential education has the power to teach us that we are capable of anything we set our minds to. The impact of that lesson is immeasurable. It fosters leaders of positive change on every scale.

Now, having worked in the experiential education field for over 20 years, I am very familiar with the questions on everyone’s mind: “Why is it so powerful? How does it produce the same, incredibly wonderful results every time?” Here is my answer: There is magic in the combination of a wilderness setting and groups working together to overcome challenges. Kurt Hahn, a pioneer of experiential education stated, “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

Experiential education wakes us up from the haze of our habits, and reminds us that life is a fun adventure; we grow, we change, we become. It breathes a fresh wind into the boredom and fruitlessness of stagnation. Life shifts from one-dimensional to 3D, because we are experiencing what we learn. It’s the difference between hearing about a mountain, seeing a picture of a mountain, or climbing a mountain. Only the latter strengthens us physically, intellectually and morally. Climbing the mountain vs. hearing about it or seeing it is also a lot more fun, and engages all of our senses.

Experiential education is a game changer, and what you learn affects your daily life in positive ways you never could have predicted. The resourcefulness, sense of confidence, compassion, and zest you acquire will, very literally, change the life that you lead. Obstacles become challenges you overcome with confidence. Other people, maybe once perceived as “different from you,” become “people like you”.

Leaders are created through experiential education experiences, because you learn to have confidence in yourself and in others. You naturally see others’ strengths and potential rather than limitations. You understand what it took to get yourself up the mountain, because you climbed it, step by step. You know and live by the inherent value of yourself, others, and the natural world.

You won’t hear and forget, or see and remember. You will understand how to lead an extraordinary life of fun, compassion and adventure.

Amanda Sturner, RMT is a certified Strategic Intervention Life Coach, and the founder of Stretch Zone Coaching. She teaches specific tools to create the changes you want or need. She can be reached at stretchzonecoaching.com.

What Deer Hill Means to Me

Beth Capelin, Ambassador, Three-time Alumni Parent

Ambassador Beth Capelin knows the value of a Deer Hill wilderness and service adventure for teens

I married into the Capelin/DH family, and not only witnessed its growth, but put hammer to nail almost thirty years ago to assist in its early construction! None of that influenced my opinion about the quality of the DH program or the decision to allow my children to go to Mancos, Co. My three children spent a total of eight summers at Deer Hill, and the experiences and memories will forever be a part of their fabric.

All three children anxiously awaited their turn and “coming of age” to participate. A scenic photo taken in the Weminuche wilderness four years ago was recently blown up to poster size and now hangs in the college dorm rooms of two of my sons…a fond memory of a very beautiful place with a special group of friends.

I am passionate about DH and am certain that DH can make a big impact on a young person’s life. It is difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm when I talk about DH to family, friends and neighbors in and around my community. I’ve given slide presentations, represented DH at camp fairs, and spoken to many parents in my community. My children have also helped to recruit their friends, spoken to peers and parents, at fairs, at our home and over the phone.

Why do we do this? It is not because our last name is “Capelin”. It is because a few weeks at Deer Hill can have a profoundly positive effect on a young person and who that person will become. So much can be discovered in the middle of nowhere.

Deer Hill Welcomes New Faces to Basecamp

Starting in mid-February, Jordan Lang is Deer Hill’s new Sales and Admissions Manager, welcoming participants to the Circle; as of the beginning of March, Justin Shauinger is the Facility Manager, keeping vehicles running smoothly, and Basecamp looking sharp; come April, two-time alum, Dori Wilcox will support the Outreach Department as Deer Hill’s Photography Intern. Welcome!

Jordan Lang

Sales and Admissions Manager

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado in Manitou Springs. I went to college in Durango and graduated with an Environmental Studies and Agriculture degree from Fort Lewis College. From there I ventured off to the islands of Washington State to farm and live the simple life by the Pacific. Eventually, I craved the dry climate and high desert landscape of Southwest Colorado where my heart belongs deep in the desert canyons and high in the San Juan Mountains. Working with Deer Hill allows me to share with others these remarkable places that I love to call home.

Jordan, Sales and Admissions Manager

Justin Shauinger

Facility Manager

Born and raised west of Phoenix, Arizona, I grew up in the small town of Waddell. There at the base of the White Tanks Mountains, I began to appreciate the wilderness, learning from the Arizona desert. After completing my education in the “Valley of the Sun,” I found myself looking for life in the mountains. This brought my wife and me to Durango in 2006. For the last 10 years I have worked in a variety of construction fields, most notably, the City of Durango’s Utility Department, where I earned certifications as a Colorado Water Professional. As the Facility Manager at DHE, I am excited to combine my skills, work ethic and love for the outdoors to support the many adventures happening around us.

Justin Shauinger, Facility Manager at Deer Hill Expeditions

Dori Wilcox

Photography Intern

Dori is California born and raised. After attending Deer Hill for two summers, she majored in Digital Arts at Chapman University and worked various art jobs. She is currently studying to be an ESL teacher to travel the world. Despite her suburban lifestyle thus far, she craves the adrenaline of adventure sports and the peace of the mountains. She’ll be joining the team of Deer Hill interns this year to take photos of the campers and the surrounding wilderness. Dori hopes to be able to share the therapeutic effects of nature with the younger generation. In her free time, she can be found petting strangers’ dogs or watching indie drama films.

Photography Intern, Dori Wilcox

Spring in the Southwest

In Photos

I grew up in New England, where when spring rolls around, everything becomes green once again, as if the world were pulling on a leafy, green robe. I lived, for a number of years in the Pacific Northwest, where when spring rolls around, everything becomes… well, greener, as if the world were adding a green hat-and-scarf to its monochromatic ensemble. Here at Deer Hill, spring brings river trips and service projects–we’re all gearing up to host a raft (pun intended) of school groups on river expeditions and service projects this spring.

– Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

Alumni and Sibling Discounts

If you’d like to return for another Deer Hill experience, we’d love to have you back. Please take $200 off your tuition as a Deer Hill Alumnus. Also, families sending siblings, please enjoy the same $200 discount. (As much as we’d love to, we are unable to combine these discounts, though. Thank you for understanding.)

The Petroglyph | A New Year Begins

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In the January 2016 Issue of The Petroglyph…

  • 2016 Summer Expeditions
  • Alumni Anecdote: Daniel Capelin
  • Alumni and Sibling Discounts
  • In Photos: 2015 Hidden Gems
  • Deer Hill seeks Sales & Admissions Manager

2016 Summer Expeditions

Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

Happy New Year!
Snowier than recent years, the dream of a “White Christmas” was very much a reality at Deer Hill this winter (for those who celebrated the holiday), with the promise of more to come. Hopefully all this snow will set us up for consistent good flows on the rivers this spring and summer. Looking beyond the winter wonderland outside, 2016 brings another year of great expeditions in the Southwest and Costa Rica. The San Juan Classic introduces participants to its namesake river and mountains. Heart of the Rockies, still the epic 17-day mountain backpacking dream will see a new route this year, as will Canyon Country—starting in the ponderosa forests of the Abajo Mountains, hikers will descend into the 1100’-deep Dark Canyon, a paradise of swimming holes and shady cottonwood groves. Pass this on to folks you think might be interested in a Deer Hill summer, or take a look at the 2016 offerings yourself.

Alumni Anecdote

Daniel Capelin, Canyon Country ’10, Wilderness Leadership ’11

Having spent two summers as a camper at Deer Hill, my only regret is that I didn’t start going sooner.  Before I knew it, I was too old and there were no more trips for me to go on.  My favorite summers, the ones that really stand out in my mind, are filled with incredible experiences and memories forged in the breathtaking mountains and canyons of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico with unforgettable people on Deer Hill adventures. One of my favorite memories took place in the middle of nowhere (this tends to happen at Deer Hill) in a canyon in Utah.  I left my hiking boots away from the rest of my equipment overnight, and upon waking up was informed that to get them back I needed to put on a performance, the standard punishment in our group for an offense like this one.  Within two weeks of meeting this group of a dozen total strangers, I had grown comfortable enough to stand up in front of all of them and sing my heart out.  Not only am I not a singer, but I have always been notoriously shy and reserved.  Being able to sing before this group and not only not feel embarrassed, but actually enjoy myself, made this an incredible, fun, and transformative moment for me, and just one among so many others that I will always remember.
– Daniel

Alumni and Sibling Discounts

If you’d like to return for another Deer Hill experience, we’d love to have you back. Please take $200 off your tuition as a Deer Hill Alumnus. Also, families sending siblings, please enjoy the same $200 discount. (As much as we’d love to, we are unable to combine these discounts, though. Thank you for understanding.)

2015 Hidden Gems

In Photos

A lot of photos move across my desk every spring and summer. A lot. Inevitably, I miss a few gems along the way, but maybe a more tragic scenario is when great photos, for one reason or another, don’t find themselves showcased on our website, posters or booklets. Here are a few such gems, dusted off and polished up for their moment in the spotlight. These photos capture the beauty of the places Deer Hill goes, and the joy that many of us find in those places.

Deer Hill Seeks Sales and Admissions Manager

Gabriel Bernier, Outreach Director

The Sales and Admissions Manager supports families and groups through the process of enrolling in a program with Deer Hill. S/he responds to inquiries, screens for an appropriate fit, documents those communications, manages files, and prepares program staff with relevant participant information. This position also manages follow-up correspondence with alumni, and works to expand Deer Hill’s reach to new participants in key market areas, by creating and developing relationships with outreach partners. If you are interested in this position, please read the complete description on the Work at Deer Hill page and then submit a letter of interest and résumé by way of email to [email protected], or pass this along to someone you think might be interested.

The Petroglyph | Work at Deer Hill in 2016

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In the December 2015 Issue of The Petroglyph…

Deer Hill is currently hiring for four great positions in 2016:

  • Facility Manager, starts March 1
  • Field Staff, programs throughout the spring and summer
  • Internship Program, starts April 7
  • Photography Internship, starts April 7 (flexible)

Employment Opportunities

Deer Hill begins filling positions for Field Staff and Interns in in the fall of each year. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Administrative positions are announced as openings become available. Applications are submitted online. Follow the links below for more information and to apply for the position that interests you. If you have questions about working at Deer Hill, please contact the Staff Manager at [email protected]


Deer Hill’s Facility Manager keeps our basecamp running smoothly so as to support our programs in the field and when they come back to Basecamp. This position is an essential element of the Deer Hill community, both in spirit and in hard work. The Facility Manager works alongside the Basecamp Manager to supervise Interns and provide guidance with their daily responsibilities which include preparing equipment, packing supplies, repairing gear, maintaining facilities, resupplies, and interacting with field staff and participants at Basecamp and during transitions in the field. When not working with the Interns or the Basecamp Manager, the Facility Manager could find him or herself improving systems, preparing new work tasks, managing the irrigation of grounds, whistling a catchy tune, and working on vehicles and trailers.

Field Staff

Our field staff bring a wide range of backgrounds and training to their role. The one element that they all have in common is the desire to provide participants with the most meaningful, educational, and fun programs possible. Every day, Deer Hill field staff make an impact on the lives of our participants through their leadership and presence. Our field staff build a strong foundation of outdoor skills, service work experience, communication and interpersonal skills while leading in the mountains, deserts and rivers of the Southwest U.S. and Costa Rica. Field staff often find that their work with Deer Hill is deeply fulfilling because it is meaningful. They experience the daily richness of supporting participants as they take risks, build new skills, and ultimately learn to connect more fully with the wilderness, others and themselves.

Internship Program

Deer Hill’s Internship Program is an essential element of the Deer Hill community, both in spirit and in hard work. Interns live onsite and support Deer Hill programs and operations by preparing equipment, packing supplies, repairing gear, maintaining facilities, resupplies, and interacting with field staff and participants at Basecamp and during transitions in the field.

With hands-on experience and guidance from Deer Hill administrative staff, Interns learn about the logistics and systems that facilitate multi-element wilderness expeditions and cross-cultural service projects. While interns do not lead trips, they have several opportunities to go out into the field. Interns are invited to attend the field staff Spring River Training, and to join a section of a spring program and summer program, observing and supporting the role of an outdoor educator. All experiences in the field with Deer Hill are contingent upon administrative approval.

Photography Internship

Photographs and participant testimonials comprise a significant part of Deer Hill’s marketing content. The Photography Intern helps collect and organize this material. Additionally, the Photography Intern maintains Deer Hill’s Instagram and Facebook accounts with daily posts. With guidance, collaboration and supervision from the Outreach Director, this program is designed to include the opportunity for special projects that align the intern’s skills and interests with Deer Hill’s outreach needs. One such project is the development and implementation of a digital photo archiving system. This internship provides an opportunity to gain valuable and highly marketable hands-on experience in a fun and truly inspiring outdoor education environment.