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. 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.



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!

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

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.

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.

Kristen Kiley

Hi! I’m Kristen and I grew up in Michigan. I’ve always been drawn to nature, and I started going on Lake Michigan backpacking trips with my mom as a kid. I’m so grateful for those early experiences and the beautiful environments they showed me. They helped to spark my passions for both adventure and environmentalism, which are still both going strong. I am currently a student at Michigan State University studying Environmental Studies and Sustainability, and I plan to someday work as a naturalist. I’m so excited to be interning with Deer Hill this summer! I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone, exploring the Colorado rocks, and helping to create meaningful outdoor experiences for others.

Dawson Veen

My name is Dawson Veen and I was born in Phoenix, Arizona but I grew up in Denver, Colorado. I am currently studying environmental science with a focus on zoology at Grand Canyon University. I love any excuse to be outdoors and love climbing and backpacking. I have worked a number of jobs including on our family’s farm down in Mesa, Arizona and also as a barista serving coffee for the past couple of years. Last summer I worked at a summer camp in Branson, Missouri, and knew that this summer I wanted to do something similar. That is when I saw the job with Deer Hill. I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me!

Jessey Hampton

Hello, my name is Jessey and I am from Southwest Colorado. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of camping in the San Juans, exploring creeks and forests, and biking with my brother from our house into my tiny hometown just for the pleasure of buying our own soda pop. My personal connection with the wilderness really started, though, on an outdoor school expedition as a teenager. It transformed me in many ways. It is also my inspiration for working in the same industry. I have a background in teacher education and am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the world of outdoor education through my time at Deer Hill. I am also excited to be joining a team that works to create powerful and beautiful learning experiences for participants.

Sabina Vargas

Hi everyone! My name is Sabina (yes, no R!) and I am from Oakland, California. I am an aspiring cultural anthropologist, a Mexika dancer, and a student of life itself. I have done outdoor education for a while now, but had to put a pause to that joy because of the COVID pandemic; so, I am extremely excited to be back in the field! I was actually a Deer Hill participant when I was 15 years old, and now it is an honour to come back to Mancos as an intern and staff member. Deer Hill really ignited that love I have for nature and to appreciate ingenious knowledge since I myself am indigenous. I’m so excited for the Summer!

Asa Szegvari

Growing up in Carlisle, MA, some of my earliest memories are of playing in the woods behind our house, and the adventures never stopped. From dogsledding and hiking in the White Mountains to trail running with my cross country team, my focus was always on the outdoors. In the semester before starting college I participated in a three month trip in Nepal with a mix of home-stays and backpacking. Inspired by my three leaders in Nepal, I led both orientation and outing club trips in the Adirondacks with my school where I saw the appreciation for the outdoors these trips fostered, but also the strong bond between people just a few days in the wilderness can build. Having just graduated, I can’t wait to continue the adventure this summer at Deer Hill!

Emily Mitchell

I was born and raised in the Metro Detroit Area and am currently working toward my BA in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management at Northern Michigan University. When I was fifteen, I had the opportunity to be part of a teen expedition to Peru where we hiked Machu Picchu, white-water rafted through the Andes, and took part in building new schools for a local community. The following year I spent the summer on pilgrimage, backpacking 500 miles across Spain and completing El Camino de Santiago. Since then, I’ve enjoyed hiking my first 14,000-foot mountain, camping whenever possible, volunteering at the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog races, Michigan Ice Fest, Noquemanon ski marathon and enjoying all of the outdoor adventures that the Upper Peninsula has to offer. I’m looking forward to many more adventures and am very excited to work with everyone at Deer Hill!

Sophie Reichard

Hello! My name is Sophie Reichard! I am from Noblesville, Indiana. Currently attending IUPUI where I am majoring in Biology and minoring in Medical Humanities. In my free time I enjoy going to parks to walk, bike, and read! Long-distance running is another hobby of mine as I compete in cross country and track at IUPUI. Running is one way I am able to explore the outdoors and having an amazing team makes it all the more enjoyable. A couple of summers ago I visited Colorado for the first time and have been eager to return to the beautiful state ever since! I am extremely excited for the opportunity to meet everyone and intern at Deer Hill Expeditions!

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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