Deer Hill's Heart and Soul

The Staff at Deer Hill

In 1984, Doug and Beverly Capelin founded Deer Hill Expeditions to create authentic connections through wilderness and service. Throughout the years, their dream has transformed into a way of life, with a passionate executive team overseeing the work of knowledgeable and dedicated staff. Programs are led by experienced field staff, supported by interns at peak season. After all these years, new owners Jordan Palmer and Max LaPrade still strive to educate, empower, and help people create fond memories of nature. Together, as a team, we are moving forward onto the next adventure, with confidence in our steps and an eye on the horizon.

Leadership Team

John Palmer

Operations Director and Co-Owner

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 with my wife Emily, daughters Hazel and Olivia, and our dog Clea. I love to mountain bike, play on the river, sleep under the stars, and build things with my hands.

Email: john@deerhillexpeditions.com

Max LaPrade

Business Director and Co-Owner

I grew up in Jacksonville, FL where surfing in the ocean sparked my desire to be in wild places. After graduating from Wofford College with a degree in Business Economics, I packed my Isuzu Rodeo and without a plan drove to Jackson, Wyoming to ski for a winter. One winter turned into seven years. I worked various jobs, eventually becoming a fly fishing guide where I found joy in sharing my love of wild rivers and natural places with others. After moving to Durango with my wife, Joanna, I saw an opportunity to find greater meaning in my work and joined the team working with Deer Hill Foundation. I am excited to help provide transformative wilderness experiences to those who, like my younger self, may not know that these beautiful mountains and rivers exist.

Email: max@deerhillexpeditions.com

Erin Christenson

Staff Manager

My love for the outdoors can be attributed to my upbringing in Colorado. My parents valued outdoor experience and I was introduced to hiking and camping at a very young age. After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in Health and Exercise Science, my intentions to pursue Graduate school subsided as my drive for adventure intensified. I began chasing employment as a Wildland Firefighter which landed me in Zion National Park, and most recently, brought me to the San Juan National Forest here in Southwest Colorado. My 8 years as a firefighter provided me with countless nights under the stars and profound teamwork and leadership experience in dynamic environments. I am excited to bring my experience to Deer Hill and to support our amazing field staff!

Email: staff@deerhillexpeditions.com 

staff manager at deer hill

Alex George

Program Sales Manager

I spent my childhood in the Midwest splitting my time between Nebraska and Missouri.  After high school, I moved to Olympia, Washington for a change of scenery and a fresh start.  It was here that I developed a love for the outdoors which eventually led me to Deer Hill Expeditions in 2014 as an intern.  I spent the next six summers facilitating Deer Hill programs as a field instructor, and am a true believer of the transformative power of outdoor education and the Deer Hill mission.  After graduating from Prescott College with a degree in Environmental Studies, I am thrilled to be at Deer Hill in an administrative role to continue working in a community of passionate individuals committed to building a brighter future by connecting others to nature, place, and self!

Email: sales@deerhillexpeditions.com

Lizzie Heine

Admissions Manager

I was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and was fortunate enough to have a father who took me outside often. From overnight kayak trips on remote rivers in Missouri to a bike packing trip on the Katy Trail, I spent much of my time outdoors and loved it. I decided to study a passion of mine and received a Bachelors at Colorado State University in English Literature. After graduating, I was set up for success in the field of property management in Missouri, however, shifted gears entirely after being exposed to backpacking. 9,000 miles and many smiles later, I can proudly say that I am a triple crown hiker having completed the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. As someone who has spent over a year of her life living under the stars, I believe in Deer Hill’s mission in truly finding oneself in the wilderness and am so excited to be a part of such an amazing company.

Email: admissions@deerhillexpeditions.com

lizzie deer hill staff in colorado adventures

Jordan Lehman

Operations Manager

I grew up on my family’s farm in Iowa where I learned about land stewardship and played around in the fields. My love for the mountains developed later in my teens when I went on my first backpacking trip and discovered a new way to engage with the outdoors. In my free time I love baking, singing along with the radio, and dancing poorly but with a lot of joy. I’m so excited to be here at Deer Hill!

Email: operations@deerhillexpeditions.com

Rick Mendez

Programs Manager

I was born in the southern foothills of the Adirondack Mountain Range in Upstate NY, where I grew up hiking the “46ers” and discovered a love for the backcountry through my school’s Adirondack Mountain Club. After high school, I took a course with National Outdoor Leadership School which introduced me to my passion for outdoor education. With this new course under my belt and a hunger for more, I landed at Deer Hill Expeditions, working first as a basecamp intern and immediately after, a field guide. DHE is responsible for bringing my passion for outdoor education to the next level, offering me opportunities with experiential education for youth; and I am thrilled to be able to fulfill this passion through an administrative role. Although I can be found enjoying every type of outdoor activity under the sun, my favorite and most common is river trips, both single and multi-day. When we are not floating down a river canyon, my wife, Jocelyn and I live in Durango, CO with our cat, Moon.

Email: programs@deerhillexpeditions.com

Founders 

Doug Capelin

Doug Capelin

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 proud to have done all of that with Deer Hill.

Email: doug@deerhillexpeditions.com

Beverly Capelin

Beverly Capelin

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.

Email: beverly@deerhillexpeditions.com

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.

Sarah Goldberg

Sarah is a Vermont transplant originally from the pine barrens of South Jersey. Attracted to the power of shared work and a communal sense of place, she pursued a BA in Biocultural Restoration with a minor in Natural History from Sterling College in Vermont. While enrolled, she focused on food systems, environmental ed, indigenous cultural lifeways of the Americas, and ecology. You could say she’s a bit of a lifetime generalist, making it easy for her to connect with a broad range of program participants. Sarah has accumulated over 220 field days over the past 4 years alone! When not on course, you can find Sarah in VT hiking, teaching snowboarding, or snuggled up with a good book while homesteading on a farm in a tiny home with her partner. She digs keeping species lists in her field notebook, fancy camp cooking, gear repair, birding, resupply days that involve eating out, and sunbathing.

Scott Boersma

Scott grew up north of Chicago choosing to play before homework. He graduated college with a degree in advertising with a minor in sociology. He has worked at various different camps over the years and has a penchant for climbing as it evokes in him a sense of meditation. His indoor time is mostly comprised of going down rabbit holes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, listening to various podcasts, and pondering as I call it “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness”. He loves spending time with his two nieces and sending them videos of new things from my outdoor activities.  Fun fact:  His favorite pizza in Chicago is Gino’s East Chicago style deep dish sausage patty pizza!

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 and has been leading groups into the wilderness ever since. Over the years, he has through hiked all of the long trails in the country, been a rafting guide, a hiking guide, a ropes course facilitator, a snowboard instructor, and now a father. His variety of experience has resulted in a keen ability to connect with and teach to a wide range of populations.

Kevin Jacobs

Angelica Cronin

Angelica grew up deep in the green forests of upstate New York. As a young child she fostered a love for exploring the outdoors which she has carried with her into adulthood. She graduated with a BA in Adventure Education from Prescott College.  She is thrilled by activities such as squelching through mud with bare feet, climbing trees, and looking for pretty rocks along river beds. Angelica can often be seen wearing lots of wool and other well-loved clothing held together by many, many patches. She has been known to corner folks and forcibly engage them in conversation about how humans have to reconnect with our animal side. Most recently she has been working on figuring out how to bring pounds of chocolate into the desert in the summertime without it melting. She may be found struggling with door keys.

Michael Weiss

Originally from Oakland California, Michael first came to Deer Hill in 2019 after a few years of work with the Park Service and guiding in the Northern Rockies. His mission at Deer Hill is to share the beauty, history, and culture of the Southwest with young people looking for meaning, and to inspire genuine, place based connection. He is a lover of poached eggs, long trails, ’90s Hip Hop, and used bookstores. Michael is a Single Pitch Instructor with the American Mountain Guides Association and a Wilderness First Responder. He also has degrees in geology and environmental studies.

Michael Weiss

Maggie Humphrey

Maggie grew up in Middle Tennessee and found a love for the natural world first through trail runs with her cross country team and camping trips among the many waterfalls and ravines that make up the Nashville basin. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Government, but her passion lies in environmental philosophy and experiential education. She is drawn to outdoor work for the meaningful experiences it creates with others and the connections it creates with the earth, and especially values the ways these experiences create a sense of belonging and inspire environmental stewardship.

Kayla Nardozzi

Kayla grew up in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and went to school at the University of Arizona where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies & Sustainable Plant Systems. Kayla believes in the conjunction of outdoor adventures and environmental service work, as there is power to fundamentally change the way we view ourselves and the spaces we meander through. Kayla excels at providing a positive, safe, and fun environment for youth to explore the outdoors! 

Sophie Linett

As a graduate of the Santa Fe Waldorf School, Sophie was lucky enough to have wilderness experience built into her education, which included an amazing trip on the San Juan with Deer Hill in 2013. Working on organic farms in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico has cemented her desire to spend time outdoors and her belief that exposing people to nature is key to creating communities that care about environmental issues. Sophie majored in science and technology studies with a minor in environmental studies at Wesleyan University, where she worked on the student-led farm and played on the co-ed ultimate frisbee team. After completing the summer internship at Deer Hill in 2019, she is back for a second season as field staff to provide others with the kind of experience that has shaped so much of who she is today.

Michael Hill

Michael grew up in Maryland and discovered his love for the outdoors on the Potomac River. He then ventured out west and was blown away by all the mountains, canyons, and adventures to be had. He started his outdoor education career as an intern with Deer Hill Expeditions in 2017. He also works for various other outdoor ed companies and is a ski instructor at Mammoth Mountain. When Michael’s not working with youth in the backcountry, you can find him making turns on skis, climbing all types of rocks, and experimenting with different musical instruments.

Interns

Deer Hill’s Interns are an essential part 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, and facilitating resupplies.

Samuel Smith

Hi! My name is Samuel Smith and I am a new intern for Deer Hill Expeditions for the 2022 spring season! I am extremely excited to be joining Deer Hill and starting a new journey with other like-minded individuals. I am currently a student at Ohio University and plan to graduate this spring semester with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Studies while also earning a minor in Geography. Ever since my childhood I have always enjoyed the outdoors, working to help other people in any way that I possibly can, and recreating in new places! This is why I chose to be a part of Deer Hill’s team. I aim to challenge myself and others through programs and projects that are part of a greater meaning. I hope to not only create an authentic connection to myself, but to everyone else around me as this new year at Deer Hill Expeditions begins!

Becca Ray

I was born and raised in Acoma, NM on the Pueblo of Acoma Reservation. I have spent most of my life on the Acoma reservation, being heavily involved with my cultural tradition. Much of my childhood was spent exploring the surrounding wilderness around my grandparents, listening to the downpour of rain with the crackling lightning and booming thunder, or talking with the elements and nature on my hikes. In the coming years, wanting to have a career where I worked outdoors became my goal in my academics. Being accepted into the Adventure Education major at Fort Lewis College was the first step toward a career in the outdoor industry. My time in Durango, CO, and having first-time experiences in backcountry backpacking and rock climbing have nurtured and flourished my love for the outdoors. As an intern here at Deer Hill I hope to gain new knowledge and skills but most importantly break out of my comfort zone to bring out my “authentic self.”

Erin Lang

Hi! My name is Erin Lang! I grew up in Louisville, Ky. I found my passion for the outdoors two hours from my house at the Red River Gorge. The Red has become a special place for my friends and I to explore. Not only has the Gorge allowed me to find my love for the outdoors, but it also allowed me to figure out my future career path. I am graduating in May from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration and a minor in Outdoor Experiential Leadership and Tourism. While in school, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand and learn more about their tourism. Studying abroad in New Zealand opened my eyes to new outdoor activities and provided the opportunity to engage in new things. A couple of my favorites were canyoneering, surfing, and black water rafting, which is not quite like white water rafting. I hope that this internship will provide me the opportunity to see new terrain and grow my passion for the outdoor industry!

Freya Bairdsen | Intern

Zach Kuckerka | Intern

Shannon Wood | Intern

Madison King | Intern

Nez Choate | Intern

Frankie Ostenson | Intern

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.

Renee Palmer

Though Lakeville, CT is where I call home, I spent my early years in Western and Southern Africa, and Eastern Europe. As part of a Foreign Service family whose travels opened my eyes to diverse ways of living, I’ve grown to embrace new experiences and learning opportunities (especially when they involve food!) Following an interest in visual arts and culture, I studied Art History at Wesleyan University, and found myself working in the art world shortly after graduating. But something was missing! It wasn’t until a Grand Canyon river trip in 2019 that the interdependence of people and the land entered my awareness, bringing me to Deer Hill less than two years later. As the Kitchen and Food Manager, I’m excited to continue exploring that precious connection as I share my love for creating delicious meals with this special community.

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

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