Deer Hill's Heart and Soul

The Staff at Deer Hill

Founders Doug and Beverly Capelin continue to direct Deer Hill’s course and maintain the organization’s vision. There is a small administrative team that works year-round to manage the daily operations including program development, admissions, hiring, outreach and finances. Programs are led by a dedicated group of seasonal field staff, and during the peak seasons, those programs are supported by Basecamp interns.

Administrative Staff

Doug Capelin

Doug Capelin

Founder & Director

I grew up on Long Island and thought taking the train to see the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, New York, was a peak experience. After surviving four winters at Colgate University, I bought green jeans and polyester work shirts in San Bernardino to work for the U.S. Forest Service, jumping out of helicopters to fight wildland fires. After returning to Long Island for a M.A. in Education, I then taught school in Grand Junction and Dolores, Colorado, where I met Beverly. We founded Deer Hill Expeditions in 1984 and built our dream into the thriving community here today. When asked by cheek-squeezing relatives what I wanted to do when I grew up, I answered, “I want to be a forest ranger, teacher, and a Dad.” I’m doing it all with Deer Hill, living with Beverly and our three children in Durango, Colorado.

Beverly Capelin

Founder & Mission Director

Before beginning my Deer Hill journey with Doug, I earned my B.A. in Education from Fort Lewis College in Durango. I taught school for seven years in Dolores and Silverton, Colorado, where I also served with the San Juan Search and Rescue team. Both Doug and I received training from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Over the years I have been involved in all aspects of Deer Hill, including raising our children Ben, Joanna and Emily. As Mission Director, I make sure that every aspect of our programs remains true to the original vision Doug and I had for Deer Hill Expeditions. In particular, I direct the care and development of our 128-acre Basecamp and our delicious menus.

Beverly Capelin
Jason Kroll

Jason Kroll


As Director, I create opportunities to connect young people with meaningful wilderness and service experiences. I am able to do this by collaborating with Deer Hill staff, Doug and Beverly, and service hosts, to deliver great programs. My love of the wilderness began when I was a child, and has stayed with me over the years. It was in the wilderness that I learned the problem-solving skills I rely on day to day in my work at Deer Hill. By supporting young people’s experiences in the wilderness, I hope to provide others with opportunities for growth. Perhaps, this is the most rewarding aspect of my role at Deer Hill: providing opportunities for growth—for participants, for staff, and within myself.

Doug Doty

Financial Manager

I came to Deer Hill to lend a hand to the fiscal management and develop financial systems. Almost fifteen years later, that initial task has been completed and developed beyond what was imagined back then. I find myself an elder in the Deer Hill community. Having seen the coming and going of many good people, I believe that we are doing important work in the world – to awaken a sense of wonder and responsibility in young people of diverse backgrounds. My wife Debbie and I live in Mancos and been members of that larger community for more than 20 years. Both my daughters, Olivia and Megan, have been participants in Deer Hill programs, and Megan worked here as a leader for a couple of seasons, before returning to graduate school.

Doug Doty

Merritt Winkler

Associate Financial Manager

I was born and raised over the mountain from Mancos, in Durango, Colorado. I developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the natural environment and its power by having nature as a playmate. As a small town girl who craved the larger world I left Colorado for Massachusetts, California, New Zealand, Sweden, Romania and Nicaragua (to name a few) only to return to the Southwest again and again. In college I studied early childhood development and studio arts and then finished my degree in English Literature. I moved to Mancos in 2014 to enjoy the simple life and to wake up to the mountains.

Amy Hartline

Staff Manager

I grew up in Pennsylvania and found connection and joy exploring the outdoors with others. I followed my love of the outdoors and working with others by pursuing a B.A. in Wilderness Therapy through Prescott College, and an M.A. in Transformative Leadership through the California Institute of Integral Studies. I went on to teach in a variety of outdoor settings, including Outward Bound, Prescott College, and the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. My work facilitating and parenting in the natural world gave me an appreciation for the power of wild places to inspire growth. It’s been a natural progression to find myself at Deer Hill working as the Staff Manager, supporting others as they explore self, others, and the natural world. I am grateful to work at Deer Hill because I believe in the power and the nature of the work we do, and I really enjoy the people I have the honor of working with and serving.

Amy Hartline
Basecamp Manager John Palmer

John Palmer

Program and Operations Manager

I grew up in Great Barrington, MA. My childhood was mostly spent outside playing every sport under the sun. In high school I was introduced to the outdoor recreation world where I worked for Zoar Outdoor as a raft guide on the Deerfield River; I was hooked!
In 2006 I went on to Brevard College where I studied Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education. After College I knew I wanted to work in the outdoor Industry and Colorado was the first place I landed. I came to Deer Hill in 2008 to work as field staff and after one season away I’m back to stay.  I now live in Mancos at Deer Hill with my wife Emily and our dog Clea. I love to mountain bike, play on the river, sleep under the stars, and build things with my hands.

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

Al Huckins

Basecamp Manager

After growing up near the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, I came out to Colorado in 2011 looking for bigger peaks. Not only did I find bigger mountains but also discovered a new love for rivers and canyons. Putting my degree in Outdoor Experiential Education to work, I have been lucky enough to explore and teach in many landscapes spanning from North Carolina to Alaska. I returned to the Southwest and to Deer Hill as Basecamp Manager in 2017. I live in Dolores, CO and spend my time tying to appreciate and create beauty through exploration and art.

Gabriel Bernier

Outreach Director

I first fell in love with the natural world as a participant on a wilderness orientation trip for incoming first year students at Tufts University. Finding myself over treeline for the first time, New Hampshire’s White Mountains rolling out from under my feet in every direction, this moment would prove seminal in my development. In fact, it would combine with my commitment to service, and my interest in communication and design, to inform my academic and professional pursuits to this day. I moved to Mancos and began working at Deer Hill in February 2014.

Gabriel Bernier
Jordan, Sales and Admissions Manager

Jordan Lang

Sales & 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.

Emily Capelin Palmer

Ambassador Coordinator

I grew up at Deer Hill Expeditions as the eldest daughter of Doug and Beverly, the founders. After going on four Deer Hill trips as a teenager, I joined the Field Staff team, leading participants into the mountains, deserts, and rivers of the Southwest that I love. These past few years I have traveled the world and explored distant mountain ranges, only to find my home and heart is with Deer Hill. When not talking with alumni, or working my other job, massage therapy, you will find me working in Deer Hill’s vegetable garden or playing outside with my husband John Palmer and our dog Clea.

Alumni Coordinator Emily Capelin

Field Staff

These are just a few of the amazing Program Leaders, Instructors, and Assistant Instructors that carry Deer Hill’s mission into practice. One of the truly unique aspects of Deer Hill’s field staff team is the eclectic mix of work these folks do when they’re not leading expeditions with us.

Cat B with a service host

Catherine Barriclow

Cat is another Deer Hill Expeditions alumnus and staff member since 2002. She especially enjoys canyoneering, backpacking, and mountaineering in the diverse and dramatic landscapes of the American Southwest. Cat spent 5 years working behind the scenes in Off and Off-Off Broadway theatre in New York City. Cat currently spends her off-seasons as an adjunct professor of theatre and guest artist at Brevard College in North Carolina.

Kevin Manion

Kevin is originally from upstate New York and received his bachelor’s degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education from Brevard College in North Carolina. He has ventured all over the United States, backpacking and canoeing and “road-tripping” from New York to Colorado to Washington and back to North Carolina. A firm believer in service, he has worked with Burmese refugees in Georgia, fostered the growth of oyster beds and was a volunteer landscaper at a women’s residence. In his spare time he enjoys bouldering, trail running, singing and playing the guitar. He spends his winters in North Carolina. This is Kevin’s fourth year with Deer Hill and we always look forward to his return.

Kevin Manion
Bri Boertman

Bri Boertman

Bri spent her third year with Deer Hill Expeditions working as the Program Leader on our Costa Rica trips. A Spanish speaker, Bri has travelled extensively in Latin America and studied in Spain during her time in university. Bri has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Antioch University, is a Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Trainer and a Hatha Yoga Instructor. Along with working at Deer Hill Expeditions and other adventure providers, Bri runs her own company, The Deva Healing Center, that facilitates wilderness trips for women and is currently starting a program to mentor troubled teen-age girls using wilderness exploration, yoga, and expressive arts. Bri’s constant smile quickly spreads through her groups and her ability to connect with and care for every one of her participants is truly impressive.

Dave Haffeman

Dave Haffeman has worked many spring programs over the years with DHE, and has grown to love Deer Hill and our mission. An avid boater and enthusiastic educator, Dave spends the year teaching Spanish at Animas High School in Durango, CO. Because of his Spanish fluency, experience traveling in Latin America and compassionate approach to people, he is the ideal Deer Hill staff to be leading you through the canyons of the Southwest.

Dave Haffeman
Cecil Goodman

Cecil Goodman

Cecil began her journey at Deer Hill Expeditions as a participant on summer programs. This coming summer will be her twelfth as a Field Leader with us. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature. She is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Experiential Education at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. She is a Utah River Guide and a certified Wilderness First Responder. She has worked as field instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and the Chadwick School’s Outdoor Education Program in southern California among other adventure education programs. When not at Deer Hill Expeditions or off on an adventure of her own, Cecil lives in Prescott, where she is an adjunct faculty for Prescott College’s Adventure Education Department.
Of her relationship to Deer Hill, Cecil says: “Deer Hill has been a major part of my life since my first year as a student. Deer Hill has become much more than a job for me. It has become my family and my passion. Through the students, the staff, and the beauty of the places we travel through, Deer Hill brings me a sense of clarity and joy. I come back each summer because I know how important it is to pass that feeling on to every person that comes to Deer Hill.”

Kevin Jacobs

Kevin has a long history with DHE. He came to us first as a participant in 1993 and then again in 1995. Enchanted with DHE’s community, place and mission, in 1998 he became a member of our Basecamp Staff. In the years between his last visit and now, he has through hiked all of the long trails in the country, been a rafting guide, a hiking guide, a ropes course facilitator and a snow board instructor. His variety of experience has resulted in a keen ability to connect with and teach to a wide range of populations. Kevin lives in Aspen Colorado.

Kevin Jacobs

Kitchen Staff

Cooking up delicious, nutritious and soulful meals for our participants, our Kitchen Staff keeps the fire burning through spring and summer at Deer Hill.

Diane Emmanuel

Kitchen Manager

Diane moved to Mancos, Colorado in 1979, where she was introduced to Beverly Capelin. The two became fast friends. In those days, Diane was living in a tipi and selling quilts at art fairs. The imminent birth of her first daughter, Ciela Rose, encouraged Diane to look for a house, and it was then that she met Beverly. Over the past thirty-or-so years, Diane has explored a number of ways to work in and with domestic spaces—selling real estate, working in interior design, as well as managing kitchens and cooking. Diane now lives in Durango, though she’s been known to spend a night at Deer Hill between meals.

Kate Goodsell


Kate started working in Deer Hill’s kitchen spring 2016, and lives with her two children just down the road here in Mancos. Kate currently holds a Master’s Degree in Education as she works on her Doctorate in Special Education at North Central University. She enjoys singing, gardening, and raising her chickens, but has no time for any of these this year! More than any other kind of food, Kate loves cooking Mexican food because it reminds her of her mom.

Vivian Russell


Vivian was introduced to Deer Hill when she attended, along with Deer Hill Foundation member Tim Hendricks, a Wilderness First Responder recertification hosted at our Basecamp last spring. Now, she cooks up gourmet recipes for our participants (and staff) when she’s not enjoying life in Telluride, where she volunteers for True North Youth Program as head of Programs, Development and Marketing & Communication. In her free time, Vivian enjoys river trips, hiking, skiing, photography and traveling.

Melody Moore


Melody raised a daughter and twin boys and found a deep joy in cooking for her children. As a recent empty-nester, she sought out Deer Hill as an opportunity to find that joy again in cooking for participants during the summer months. During the school year, Melody manages the café at Fort Lewis Elementary School. When she’s not cooking for young people, Melody enjoys spending time with her family, camping, gardening and photography.

Program Support Interns

Packing trailers full of gear, bagging food for expeditions, cooking meals and cleaning the kitchen, keeping the facilities and equipment in excellent shape–it’s the Program Support Interns that facilitate in the daily operation of Deer Hill’s programs.

Chris Briggs

An intrepid explorer with a thirst for culture, I have dedicated my life to providing community service work and volunteer opportunities for various people around the world – from organizing sports expos in Australia to fundraising for orphanages in Bulgaria. Currently studying a B.S. in Global Communities and Movement at Metropolitan State University in Colorado, I am excited to learn more about the people and the culture of the communities served as part of the Deer Hill programs. In my rare spare time, I can be found hiking and camping, skydiving, practicing martial arts or taking the family dog Ozzie for a long walk. I’m thrilled to serve as an intern at Deer Hill this year and can’t wait to meet you all.

Colby Helzer

Colby is a student of Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism at Colorado State University. A native of Fort Collins, Colorado, she is leaving her hometown to pursue her passions for recreation, conservation, and outdoor education. Her experiences in the field include volunteer work with Larimer County Search and Rescue and over 10 years of outdoor adventuring. Colby has also been a Nationally Registered EMT since 2010. In her free time, she enjoys crafting, cooking, and exploring.

Lauren Smith

Originally from the desert landscape of West Texas, I moved to Fort Collins, CO in 2010 to attend college at CSU and to pursue my love of the outdoors. Growing up I traveled, backpacked, rafted, and hiked throughout New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. It was these awe-inspiring experiences that lead me to develop a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors. I received my B.S. in Psychology in 2014 put my degree to use as a Behavioral Health Specialist at a mental health hospital. After working in an inpatient setting for a year, I focused on finding a way to combine helping others and my love for nature; this led me to discover Deer Hill! In my free time you can find me playing with my dogs, strumming my guitar, biking, hiking and planning my next big adventure.

Emily Klapthor

Emily is from Charlotte, North Carolina and attending school at Brevard a few hours west in Asheville, where she studies Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education with a minor in Environmental Studies. With this degree, Emily hopes to help people who struggle with anxiety find solace in nature. Emily visited Colorado a lot when she was young and has a deep love for this state. She is excited to be back here now, and at Deer Hill, to further her education and develop an understanding of the local culture and natural world. Back home, you can find her out on the trails of Pisgah National Forest or on the banks of the Davidson River with her dog, appropriately named River.

Ben Calvert

Photography Intern

Ben comes to Deer Hill from New York City. He works at a high school in Newark, NJ as the Head of Student Activities. Ben’s passion for the outdoors and service comes from his experiences mountain biking, backpacking, working on trail crews and serving as an AmeriCorps member. Ben is very excited to spend the summer as Deer Hill’s photography intern.

Nick Beattie

Photography Intern

I am a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth earning my undergraduate degree in Environmental and Outdoor Education with a Business Administration Minor. I was born and raised in Minnesota and love exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I have a passion for photography, the outdoors, music, and people. In my free time I like to fly fish, be on the water, hike, camp, mountain bike, play my guitar, snowboard, and play pond hockey. I finished my Track and Field Career this May at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I was one of the captains on the team and trained for the 60 meter dash, 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4×100 meter relay, and javelin. I have been employed as a life guard for four summers in my home town of Blue Earth, MN, counselor and climbing/high ropes instructor at Camp Lincoln for Boys in Nisswa, MN, intern at the Telluride Academy, kayak guide for The Duluth Experience, and sales associate at Duluth Pack in Duluth, MN.

I return to Deer Hill every summer for the sense of community, for the opportunity to “give back” through a service project in the Navajo, Zuni or Hopi Nation, and most importantly because there are few experiences as rewarding as taking young people into an environment where they are challenged and inspired. Each year, I watch them emerge with a deeper sense of who they are and the importance of their relationship to the Earth.

Cat, field staff

Find Yourself in the Middle of Nowhere Home

Service at Deer Hill

Most of Deer Hill’s service projects get you working alongside Hopi, Navajo and Zuni families on projects that they have proposed. Oftentimes, host families will share cultural knowledge, stories, and arts with participants. Other service projects are conservation oriented, and arranged with the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Service projects in summer expeditions will earn you between 20 and 56 service credit hours.

More About Service

Wilderness Adventure

Deer Hill’s programs offer young people a chance to connect with nature in some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes. They also push individuals to overcome challenges and learn new skills to stay safe when enjoying the backcountry. Deer Hill’s wilderness adventures typically include a combination of white water rafting and canoeing, canyoneering, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and backpacking.

More About Wilderness

About Deer Hill

Deer Hill Expeditions was founded in 1984 by Doug and Beverly Capelin, who still own and operate the Mancos, Colorado-based company. Since 2005 Deer Hill has designed custom programs for school and community groups to provide fun, meaningful, and memorable culminating experiences, retreats, and educational expeditions. Deer Hill is accredited by the Association of Experiential Education, and maintains an impeccable safety record.

More About Deer Hill