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 and supported by interns at peak season. After all these years, new owners John Palmer and Max LaPrade still strive to educate, empower, and help people create fond memories of nature.

Our experienced guides are not just instructors; they are mentors who are passionate about sharing their love for the outdoors and empowering youth to discover their strengths. With safety as our top priority, we ensure that every aspect of our programs adheres to the highest standards, allowing parents to have peace of mind while their teens embark on life-changing journeys. 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.


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.


Sarah Goldberg

Staff Manager

My reverence for the outdoors began in the quiet and mysterious pine barrens of South Jersey.  I grew up in a mixed ecosystem of soggy cranberry bogs, dark swamps shaded by Atlantic White Cedar with an understory of rare carnivorous plants, and pygmy pine forests competing for sparse nutrients in sugar-sand soils. I later pursued a BA in Bio-cultural Restoration with a minor in Natural History from Sterling College in Vermont. It was there that I first fell in love with mountains. After attending several field study programs, I also became enamored with the flora and fauna of the Desert Southwest which brought me to work as a field staff for Deer Hill Expeditions and other similar outdoor education programs.  After moving to Durango to be closer to big mountains and vast deserts, I saw an opportunity to find greater rootedness in the community by joining the administrative team at Deer Hill Expeditions. I enjoy climbing, floating on my One Wheel, backpacking, rafting, nature journaling, reading, birding, and snowboarding.


Alex George

Outreach 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!


Morgan Harrington

Admissions Manager

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was immersed in the beautiful outdoors on a daily basis. Some of my fondest memories have been spent hiking, camping, and fishing. After spending several years working in various management roles and experiencing some major turning points in my life, I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in psychology with a minor in communication studies at Western Washington University. Amidst studying, I took every opportunity I could to be active and engage with the outdoors. I took a fly fishing expedition course, taught community outdoor yoga, traveled, and went hiking with my golden retriever, Willow, whenever possible. After graduating with my BS I moved to Mancos, Colorado and fell in love with the land and community that this area has to offer. In my free time you might find me backpacking, horse riding, writing poetry, or anything else fun and creative! I am excited to continue my journey here in Colorado with Deer Hill!


Jordan Lehman

Programs 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!


Joe Baptiste

Facilities Manager

I knew there was more to adventuring than just riding the pavements of central Massachusetts on my skateboard. Trips to the White Mountains of New Hampshire opened my eyes to other ways of adventure. After working at a car garage in my hometown for 2 years after high school, I found Sterling College in Northern Vermont. Graduating with a Bachelors in Outdoor Education, my technical skills as a backcountry technician developed, but more so, my love for wild places as well as my new knowledge of the healing power of nature. In 2019 after an 80 day field semester in the southwest I quickly flew to Vermont to graduate, kept my backpack packed, and promptly got dropped off in Mancos for my second year as a field guide for Deer Hill. I never left.  I am excited to be fully a part of the Deer Hill community and support the trips that change lives like mine, guides and participants alike! Home is where the heart is, and Deer Hill is certainly a big part of my heart. 


Sam Ryden

Operations Manager

My story begins far, far from here, up north in the “Last Frontier”, where I grew up exploring the backroads and riverbanks of Alaska’s open, wild country. I was lucky to learn my earliest life lessons out in Nature’s classroom – to walk always with resiliency, thoughtfulness, and above all, curiosity. Those values eventually led me to pursue a BA in Philosophy after which I traveled throughout South America, SE Asia, and Nepal.  However, it wasn’t until I found my way to beautiful little Mancos, CO and took an internship at Deer Hill Expeditions in 2017 that I finally felt I’d found a career-path which called to me. Since then, I have worked in just about every role you can imagine when it comes to running adventure and educational programming. I am beyond excited to be back at Deer Hill now, to join the leadership team and continue creating opportunities for young folks to get outside and connect more deeply with themselves and the great outdoors.


Corinne Kennedy

Assistant Operations Manager

Ever since I was small there has been a fire inside that traveled straight to my feet. I grew up in New Hampshire playing every sport, running around like a character from “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. After leaving the organized sport world, wondering: “Who am I? What lights me up?” I found myself at NOLS. I wandered the wilds, learning about the outdoor education world, the natural world around us, human connection, and about myself. Thanks to the outdoors, I felt more at peace and more like myself than ever before. My wanderings guided me into the field of outdoor education – supporting kids who were lost and curious about their own journey of self-discovery in a wilderness setting.


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.


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.


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.

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!

Mack Martin

Mack grew up outside in the Texas Hill Country, primarily raised by ranch animals and oak trees. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology and Sustainability and spent a few years working as a traveling biologist around the nation and globe looking for crazy cool reptiles and neat plants in untouched places. If she’s not in the backwoods sharing Earthly love and random biology facts, you may find her in Durango surrounded by dogs, horses, bikes, water, and hundreds of plants and books. Or, you may not find her at all.

Dani Simpson

Hailing from the karst environment of western Kentucky, I grew up exploring sink holes and running around barefoot. These early interactions roaming the woods, camping, or playing in the backyard shaped my love of the outdoors. In my adulthood I’ve been fortunate to find myself in new environments that fill my growing appetite for adventure, whether that be guiding in the four corners area or the San Juan mountains. I am filled with gratitude to be joining Deer Hill for my fourth season!

Kayla Nardozzi

Kayla was born and raised in the low valleys of the Sonoran Desert in the mesmerizing company of saguaros and ocotillos. She spent her childhood fascinated with the annual migration of monarch butterflies and celebrating the torrential monsoon rains. Informed by her own transformative experiences of healing and self actualization, Kayla believes that connecting with the land through play, challenge, and community can fundamentally shift the way we view ourselves and our relationships. She believes the outdoors are for everybody, every gender, and every age, and is passionate about cultivating spaces that feel welcoming and empowering for a diverse group of people. Kayla has been an outdoor educator for nearly 6 years; she’s worked with young people to grow food organically in urban spaces, has led countless classrooms on hikes along the Arizona Trail, and has explored canyons with teens by both water and foot. Kayla is honored and thrilled to continue her journey of outdoor education with Deer Hill Expeditions.

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.


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.

Amelia Donnell

Hi everyone! I’m Amelia, and I’m thrilled to be an intern here at Deerhill. I recently graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication. Now, I’m eager to embark on my next adventure in the world of outdoor education. Growing up, I always cherished my time outdoors, but it wasn’t until I started college that my love for nature blossomed. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been on backpacking trips that challenged me in unexpected ways and had the privilege of traveling to places like Alaska, where my appreciation for the outdoors grew. Some of my favorite hobbies include hiking in the Florida weather and practicing wildlife photography. I’m enthusiastic about bringing my energy and skills to Deerhill, as well as the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. See y’all outside!

Aryeh Lesch

I grew up in Evanston, IL, where I spent as much of my time as possible swimming at Lake Michigan and walking my dog in the local forest preserves. I now attend Dartmouth College in the beautiful upper valley in New Hampshire. At school, I spend my time competing on the swimming and diving team, studying history and government, hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and canoeing and swimming in the Connecticut River when the weather permits. I have been part of outdoor education as a student on summer programs in Colorado’s San Juan mountains and Washington’s North Cascades and as a trip-leader on Dartmouth’s first-year trips program. I am so excited to contribute to Deer Hill’s mission of empowering students through wilderness and service!

Kariann Lawson

Growing up on a hillside pressed against Shawnee State Forest in Southern Ohio, I have always had a connection to nature. Horseback riding through the hills, hiking with my dogs, and playing in creeks were all my favorite hobbies. As I got older, I knew I wanted to inform others about the wonders of nature. During my time in college, I took a research trip to the rainforests of Costa Rica. Researching there instilled my passion for wildlife but did not quench my thirst for travel. My heart belongs to Shawnee, but I knew that I had to spread my wings. In December 2023 I graduated with a Bachelors in Natural Sciences: Biology with minors in Botany and Zoology. When searching for opportunities, I came across Deer Hill Expeditions. I know that being a part of this team will be one of my great adventures!

Joey Bader

I first discovered my love for nature growing up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. With so much camping and hiking to do, it was hard not to. Going on small trips around the hills with my family and friends are some of my fondest memories from growing up. It was not until a trip to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota last summer that I realized that this was something I wanted to do as a career. This is my first step into outdoor education and I could not be happier than to do it with Deer Hill Expeditions! Other than nature, I also love reading books, watching movies, and collecting records. I also love to cook and eat at new restaurants. I look forward to meeting everyone and spending time in beautiful Colorado.

Katelyn LeClair

My name is Katelyn LeClair and I am Colorado born and raised. I am a huge fan of mountains and spending time outdoors, which treats me well as a seasonal worker in the National Park Service. I feel passionately about building and maintaining accessible trails so that everyone can experience nature in a way that honors the land. I have worked in Lake Clark National Park and Glacier National Park, and I look forward to more adventures in other parks and natural areas. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, climbing, and backpacking to my heart’s content. I am so excited to see what adventures Deer Hill has to offer and look forward to spending more time in the state that I love.

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.

Kevin Neadeau

I grew up in a home where my mother’s favorite thing to make for dinner was reservations. Inspired by a college girlfriend, I came to love cooking later in life. I am not a chef. I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification for this job is as an eater. I make what I like to eat. Cooking is nothing but self-expression, like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors — it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.

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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