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 & DHF Executive 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

Director of Programs and Strategy

As Director of Programs and Strategy, 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.

Merritt Winkler

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.

Mike Wagner

Staff Manager

I was fortunate to grow up playing outside in Colorado. My childhood cultivated a love for nature and a profound appreciation for adventure. In 2016 I completed a master’s degree from Prescott College in Adventure Education. I have spent my career acquiring close to 700 field days over the past fifteen years. I currently live with my beautiful wife Erika & our six-pound Chihuahua in Durango, Colorado. In my free time I enjoy trail running, playing guitar, gardening, traveling, fine dining, and reading. I am thrilled to bring my passion and experience to Deer Hill Expeditions to help inspire the next generation of leaders!

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

Gabe Deall

Assistant Operations Manager

I was born and raised in Colorado, which has always allowed me to have a strong connection to nature. Summer through winter you can find me in the high alpine, summiting mountains, fly fishing, foraging for wild foods, and skiing. During the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, I often become a desert rat, rafting or exploring the canyon country. The natural world has always been a place where I have taken solace. I feel passionate about people having the opportunity to explore the natural world whether for the pursuit of adventure or for an opportunity to find themselves. As the Assistant Operations Manager, I am excited about mentoring our interns through team building, problem solving, and learning all the nuts and bolts of Deer Hill’s logistical side that help launch our successful expeditions. Cheers.

Josh Horner

Facilities Manager

I grew up on a farm in Sparks, MD. My appreciation for the outdoors started there playing in streams, fishing in our pond, hunting doves in the cornfields, and riding my horse anywhere that I could. As I grew up I started becoming more interested in other outdoor pursuits. I did a semester at NOLS and got hooked on boating and climbing, leading me into becoming a climbing guide for EarthTreks. From there, I moved into wanting to be an outdoor educator and applied for a field staff position at DHE in 2010. I was field staff for several years as well as an aspiring entrepreneur with a building company. I have built several of the buildings here at Basecamp and remodeled some of the others. I followed this path for seven years only to comeback around to working at DHE full time as the Facilities Manager. I thrive on connecting with people and bringing enthusiasm, an adventurous spirit, and responsibility to my job here.

Jordan Lang

Admissions Manager

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado where I spent time with my family and friends exploring the beautiful wilderness landscapes found here. With a passion for the outdoors and protecting open spaces, I decided to study Environmental Studies and Agriculture at 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.

Matt Mohi

Outreach Coordinator

Growing up in the concrete jungle of LA, I was lucky enough to have Griffith Park as my backyard where I was able to tromp freely with my pals in the urban wilderness. Connection to the natural world is something that humanizes me and gives me perspective. I came to Deer Hill by happenstance and quickly saw the impact on the lives of participants and met the heart-centered staff that Deer Hill attracts. Spreading the mission of Deer Hill and expanding its reach to include more participants who will positively impact the world is something I am grateful to be a part of.

Deer Hill Foundation Staff

Max LaPrade

Director of Advancement

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.

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 Barricklow

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.

Andrew Harvison

Andrew grew up in Boulder, Colorado, adventuring in the mountains and developing a deep love for the beauty and power of mountains and wild places. While going to school at University of Colorado he chanced upon a job in outdoor education, leading trips for a science based outdoor program for youth. Since then, he has worked for many organizations. He has been lucky enough to lead trips all around the West, camping, backpacking, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and even fossil hunting! When he’s not on course, you will likely find him reading corny sci-fi, playing the guitar, or trying to squeeze one more run out of a ski day.

Lee Ringer

Lee hails from the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Growing up he got his first exposure to the wilderness through the Boy Scouts and camping with his family. He attended college in the state capitol (Raleigh) at North Carolina State University where he studied Sport Management and Outdoor Leadership/Education. His professors and peers in the Outdoor program at his college inspired him to follow a path in Outdoor Education. So he packed up his car and moved out west in search of mountains, deserts, and meaningful work. He believes he has found those exact things here in the American Southwest where he now calls home. He has been working for 5 years in Outdoor Education and there is no end in sight! Working with teenagers from around the world to develop outdoor skills, gain self-awareness, create friendships and memories, and increase self-esteem has been challenging but ultimately very rewarding! In his free time you will find him reading, climbing or paddling, but if there is snow on the ground it is guaranteed that he will be skiing!

D Formosa

Born and raised in the tropical city of Miami, FL is where D’s love for the outdoors began through sea kayaking, surfing, and SUPing. She continued her education at University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and received a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Minor in Anthropology. In 2014, she moved to Colorado to follow her passion for water and began raft guiding on the Arkansas River. Since then she has continued to explore mountains and rivers all over the world and share the experience with others. She looks forward to another season at Deer Hill in the beautiful Southwest Colorado.

Kreston Johnson

Kreston grew up in the high deserts and mountains of northern New Mexico. Having traveled in Indonesia, Mexico, and Central America, he has returned to the Southwest to share his love of “wild places” with young adults. A Waldorf graduate, Kreston has helped guide weeklong backpacking and river trips with the Santa Fe Waldorf High School. He has also worked as a ski patroller in New Mexico, and on a Semester program with Kroka Expeditions in the Northeast. He completed his EMT-Basic (Emergency Medical Technician) and Wilderness First Responder through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Kreston was a student on three Deer Hill Expedition courses. He is returning for his sixth season as field staff. Kreston brings his joy for wilderness living, backcountry cooking, and exploring the canyons and mountains of the southwest to the field.”

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. 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 snow board 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 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 and Food 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.

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.

Lizzie Gregory


After raft guiding, bike racing, and a lot of play on downhill skis, Lizzie’s everyday has transitioned into savoring dawn with a cup of tea and spending dusk in the pines, along a river, or in the juniper with her two dogs. A lover of the outdoors, she moved to the southwest 6 years ago to enjoy the endless sunshine, the smell of desert blooms, and to participate in the small, vibrant community full of passionate folks. Lizzie prioritizes balanced nutrition and local food, bringing that inspiration into the kitchen. She enjoys to dance her own creativity as well as learn from others. She lives in Mancos, just down the road from Deer Hill.

Janet Fogel


Janet was born on a farm in Montana, lived in Idaho for 10 years, and moved to Southwest Colorado in 2011 with her husband and three girls. She has been the Nutrition Director of the Mancos School District since 2012 and enjoys feeding children every day, knowing that the healthy meals are creating healthy minds. Janet’s family, hiking, paddle boarding, biking, and skiing, are what she enjoys most — when she is not cooking for others!

2019 Outdoor Education 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.

Janae Klimczak

Born and raised in a South Suburb of Chicago, IL, Janae did not experience the outdoors until later in life. She eventually fell in love with exploring the forest preserves nearby and knew the outdoors would hold a special place in her heart. Working at a Boy Scout camp located in the Huron-Manistee National Forest and working as an Adventure Trip Leader with her college, Illinois State University, she defined her passion and desire to pursue a career in the outdoor industry. To graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management, Janae will be interning with Deer Hill Expeditions until she graduates in May 2019. Janae is a huge Chicago Cubs fan who also loves spending her time in the outdoors camping, hiking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and is always looking for more activities to involve herself in!

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. Scott has worked at six different camps over the years, where he found his love for challenge courses and climbing. He finds that lead climbing serves as great meditation, as it requires all of his attention and focus to be successful. Scott’s indoor time is mostly comprised of going down rabbit holes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, listening to various podcasts, and pondering “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” His favorite podcasts are Up First, Planet Money, Freakonomics Radio, and WorkLife with Adam Grant. He loves Gino’s East Chicago style deep dish sausage patty pizza and his family.

Dani Simpson

Dani was born and raised in the knob hills of Kentucky and spent most of her childhood covered in dirt. Growing up her love for the outdoors was fostered through many camping trips with friends and family. She studied recreation administration with a concentration in outdoor recreation and recently completed a minor in environmental studies and sustainability. Dani will graduate from Western Kentucky University after the completion of the internship at Deer Hill Expeditions. Throughout college she has worked as a server and a tour guide leading cave and zip line tours at Lost River Cave in her hometown. In her free time you’ll find Dani hiking or backpacking, biking, kayaking, skateboarding, or enjoying a brew with friends. In the future Dani hopes to complete the Pacific Crest Trail and eventually start a backpacking guide service focused on healing through nature-based challenges.

Blake Howard

Blake Howard is an avid outdoor adventurer. When he’s not working you can find him surfing, rock climbing or backpacking in the middle of nowhere. He grew up in Northern California playing just about any sport he had time for and moved to San Diego after he graduated military school at the Army and Navy Academy. Blake is excited to be at Deer Hill this spring and help facilitate wilderness adventures for teens.

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