Find Yourself in the Middle of Nowhere
Deer Hill leads expeditions for individually enrolled participants during the summer months, and groups for which we have designed a custom program. Additionally, Deer Hill maintains its 130-acre Basecamp as a comfortable, nurturing environment that supports adventures into the field, or makes for a relaxing retreat. While other companies might focus on leading a tour, or teaching specific technical skills, Deer Hill goes beyond these services to include the richness of supported self-discovery.
Mission & Values
Deer Hill’s mission is “To empower the individual to create authentic connection to self and community through wilderness and service experiences.”
- Wilderness: reveals harmony, balance, and beauty.
- Challenge: the chance to face obstacles and inspire personal growth.
- Self-Awareness: the practice of becoming conscious human beings.
- Compassion: deepens connection between individuals, communities, and nature.
- Service: fosters generosity, humility, and multicultural learning.
- Community: creates connection, support, and meaning in our lives.
- Diversity: enriches communities by promoting acceptance and respect.
More About Deer Hill
Deer Hill provides wilderness adventure and cultural exchange through community service to 150 participants each summer and 20-30 organizations throughout the year. We are a small wilderness adventure camp based in Colorado that delivers a personalized experience. We maintain a staff to participant ratio of 1:4, and cap enrollment for each summer expedition team at 15. This gives participants the space and opportunity to shine as individuals.
Field staff are licensed river guides and climbing instructors, many of whom return year after year to work at Deer Hill. In the off-seasons, they work in a variety of fields all around the country, and bring these experiences to their work with Deer Hill.
Founders Doug and Beverly Capelin built Deer Hill’s Basecamp in Mancos, Colorado, at the feet of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and a stone’s throw from the rivers and canyons of southeast Utah. Over the past 30 years, the Capelins have built strong relationships with families and community leaders in the Navajo Nation and in Hopi and Zuni pueblos. Deer Hill’s programs are built on the kind of intimate relationships with people and places that take time and dedication to create.
Don’t Stop in the Middle of Hard
Deer Hill’s philosophy is that by facing challenges, and seeing them through, people develop skills that help them in every aspect of their lives. Our expeditions provide participants with opportunities to be challenged, and to be successful in meeting those challenges. Our Field Staff are trained to encourage and support participants through this process of learning and growth.
Beauty, Fun and Friendship
While facing challenges is part of an expedition with Deer Hill, it’s not the only part. We operate in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States and Costa Rica. Participants watch a sunrise from a 13,000’ peak or fall asleep on a sandy beach under the Milky Way. Experiences like these, in tight-knit groups, forge lifelong friendships and set up opportunities for good, old-fashioned fun along the way.
Richness of the Experience
For some, the reward comes after climbing a vertical granite wall, while others have their moment after completing an 84-mile backcountry river expedition. Some participants are moved by the endless layers of jagged mountains in every direction, while others glimpse the immensity of our world as they help their Navajo hosts shear sheep before attending a ceremony. Deer Hill offers expeditions that guide participants through real wilderness settings and authentic service projects, and connect participants with Native American families steeped in generations of tradition.
Deer Hill … Its History and Its Future
A Note from the Founders
Beverly and I left our teaching positions in 1983 because we had a dream. We wanted to do something that would honor and enrich the lives of young people in a deep and soulful way. We didn’t spend much time thinking about what everyone else was doing. We knew what mattered. Authentic Connection to Self and Community.
So, in 1985, Beverly and I took a handful of former students and friends camping for three weeks, and it worked. We then invested in a beautiful property in Southwest Colorado and made our home and Basecamp there. Our three children grew up in the wildlands of the Colorado Plateau in the company of staff and students from all over the world.
The mission of Deer Hill has always been to empower the individual to connect with the beauty, courage, strength, and unique voice that lies within each of us. Beverly and I believe that living and working together in a group on wilderness expeditions and service projects in Native American communities are powerful ways to engage people in that lasting discovery.
Over the years, the “Deer Hill Circle” has grown to include alumni/ae, families, neighbors, teachers, and the staff, both in the office and in the field, who are passionate about making such experiences possible. We have seen lives change before our eyes and we know that the dream has come true.
Over the years, much has changed at Deer Hill, but not the mission nor the core values which we believe are more relevant than ever. In 1998, we launched the Deer Hill Foundation (501c3) to sponsor student scholarships and Native Service. In addition to our signature summer offerings, we run programs for schools, families, and organizations from March through November.
In May of 2021, Beverly and I passed the ownership of our family company to our sons-in-law, Max LaPrade and John Palmer. Combined they already have many years of wearing multiple hats at Deer Hill. Beverly and I are now “Deer Hill elders”, and landscapers and gardeners … literally!
This was a fun-filled adventure!!! I will take invaluable lessons from this trip into my life. Deer Hill creates an opportunity for groups to come together and experience what is possible when they work and explore together. It is life-changing.Mara, participant