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


As Director, 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.

Mandy Schenkemeyer

Staff Manager

Adventure and nature have had a major impact on my personal development, especially over the past several years as I have become fully immersed in outdoor recreation as a profession. Originally from Pennsylvania, I didn’t discover my love for the outdoors until college. Since then, my work and educational pursuits have taken me to NC, OH, TN, WA, and now Mancos, CO. The absolute best part of what I do is what it does for others. I know the healing power of nature and I know the confidence boost adventure can bring. Being able to foster those experiences for others has been rewarding, but beyond that, it just feels natural. My mission is to help others find life-long healthy habits, deep passions, empowerment, and well-being.

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.

Basecamp Manager John Palmer
Justin Shauinger, Facility Manager at Deer Hill Expeditions

Justin Shauinger

Facility Manager

Born and raised west of Phoenix, Arizona, I grew up in the small town of Waddell. There at the base of the White Tanks Mountains, I began to appreciate the wilderness, learning from the Arizona desert. After completing my education in the “Valley of the Sun,” I found myself looking for life in the mountains. This brought my wife and me to Durango in 2006. For the last 10 years I have worked in a variety of construction fields, where I earned certifications as a Colorado Water Professional. As the Facility Manager at DHE, I am excited to combine my skills, work ethic and love for the outdoors to support the many adventures happening around us.

Jordan Lang


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.

Gabriel Bernier

Gabriel Bernier


I first fell in love with the natural world as a participant on a wilderness orientation trip for incoming first year students at Tufts University. Finding myself over treeline for the first time, New Hampshire’s White Mountains rolling out from under my feet in every direction, this moment would prove seminal in my development. In fact, it would combine with my commitment to service, and my interest in communication and design, to inform my academic and professional pursuits to this day. I moved to Mancos and began working at Deer Hill in February 2014.

Matt Mohi


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. The above photo was taken at Petrified Forest NP, during “Campsgiving 2017”, when a close friend and I decided to spend a week adventuring from Albuquerque to San Diego. Sometimes you find yourself having tasty meal of pasta and sausage as the Sun falls and sets the Painted Desert aglow.

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.

Kevin Manion

Kevin is originally from upstate New York and received his bachelor’s degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education from Brevard College in North Carolina. He has ventured all over the United States, backpacking and canoeing and “road-tripping” from New York to Colorado to Washington and back to North Carolina. A firm believer in service, he has worked with Burmese refugees in Georgia, fostered the growth of oyster beds and was a volunteer landscaper at a women’s residence. In his spare time he enjoys bouldering, trail running, singing and playing the guitar. He spends his winters in North Carolina. This is Kevin’s fourth year with Deer Hill and we always look forward to his return.

Kevin Manion
Bri Boertman

Bri Boertman

Bri spent her third year with Deer Hill Expeditions working as the Program Leader on our Costa Rica trips. A Spanish speaker, Bri has travelled extensively in Latin America and studied in Spain during her time in university. Bri has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Antioch University, is a Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Trainer and a Hatha Yoga Instructor. Along with working at Deer Hill Expeditions and other adventure providers, Bri runs her own company, The Deva Healing Center, that facilitates wilderness trips for women and is currently starting a program to mentor troubled teen-age girls using wilderness exploration, yoga, and expressive arts. Bri’s constant smile quickly spreads through her groups and her ability to connect with and care for every one of her participants is truly impressive.

Dave Haffeman

Dave Haffeman has worked many spring programs over the years with DHE, and has grown to love Deer Hill and our mission. An avid boater and enthusiastic educator, Dave spends the year teaching Spanish at Animas High School in Durango, CO. Because of his Spanish fluency, experience traveling in Latin America and compassionate approach to people, he is the ideal Deer Hill staff to be leading you through the canyons of the Southwest.

Dave Haffeman
Cecil Goodman

Cecil Goodman

Cecil began her journey at Deer Hill Expeditions as a participant on summer programs. This coming summer will be her twelfth as a Field Leader with us. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature. She is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Experiential Education at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. She is a Utah River Guide and a certified Wilderness First Responder. She has worked as field instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and the Chadwick School’s Outdoor Education Program in southern California among other adventure education programs. When not at Deer Hill Expeditions or off on an adventure of her own, Cecil lives in Prescott, where she is an adjunct faculty for Prescott College’s Adventure Education Department.
Of her relationship to Deer Hill, Cecil says: “Deer Hill has been a major part of my life since my first year as a student. Deer Hill has become much more than a job for me. It has become my family and my passion. Through the students, the staff, and the beauty of the places we travel through, Deer Hill brings me a sense of clarity and joy. I come back each summer because I know how important it is to pass that feeling on to every person that comes to Deer Hill.”

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. In the years between his last visit and now, he has through hiked all of the long trails in the country, been a rafting guide, a hiking guide, a ropes course facilitator and a snow board instructor. 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.

2017 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.

Joanna Gil

I am from a Hayward, California, which belongs to the San Francisco Bay Area. When I was fifteen, I backpacked for the first time with one of Deer Hill’s programs and never imagined I would enjoy the outdoors, trekking, and adventuring in Colorado! My new passion for the outdoors gave me the courage I needed to go on a 4-week expedition in Peru and trek the Andean Mountains. Now I am enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I am earning two degrees in psychology and German studies. I am excited to be back in Mancos working as an intern with a unique and amazing program. If I am not reading or playing/listening to music, I love photo hunting with my camera, learning new languages, exploring new places and having great conversations with others. I hope to bring enthusiasm to Deer Hill Expeditions and learn/grow as a person this summer!

Shay Tompkins

I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, the city by the sea.
In the past few years, however, I’ve become more acclimated to mountain life, specifically the mountains of western North Carolina. I have always had a sincere passion for adventure, and being the first in my immediate family to take jobs in outdoor settings, I have been able to nurture that passion, as well as share it with others. My friends will tell you that I’ll be the first to crack a joke, given the opportunity, but I also enjoy running and making music with my guitar. That being said, what do you call a happy backpacker? A no-mad. Heh.

Elise Unger

I grew up in Montrose, Colorado. My recreational experiences began during my early years as a kid on day hikes, backpacking trips with my parents and older sister in Canyonlands National Park, Colorado National Monument, The Grand Canyon, Kayaking on the Colorado River, and cross country skiing near Montrose. I am currently a third-year student at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, studying Outdoor Recreation. I’m looking forward to working with Deer Hill Expeditions to better myself in the field, meet other outdoorsy people, and experience a summer away from school or home. In my spare time, I enjoy backpacking, rock climbing, camping, bike rides—basically anything that brings me into the sunshine, to spectacular views, or allows me to explore a new place.

Chloe Field

Representing the East coast from Charlotte, North Carolina! Spending one summer working on the Catawba River at the U.S National Whitewater Center, I found my taste for adventure, and a new way to orient my life. I was restless as I pursued a degree in Business Management until I heard that I could pair it with a minor in Outdoor Leadership. I dove straight in and apprenticed a  5-day backpacking trip along the Mountain to Sea trail. I gained so much confidence and learned more about myself in those 5 days than I ever had in my 19 years of life. That’s when I knew this was my calling and I couldn’t wait to shape similar experiences for other people. Since then, I have led several backpacking trips in the Appalachian Mountains and haven’t looked back. What led me to Deer Hill was the opportunity to work alongside both of my passions: outdoor education and service projects! In my free time you can find me running, climbing, exploring, painting, reading, and… eating.

Chad McVey

Though I’m originally from flat-land Iowa, the Colorado outdoors has played an important part in my life. I have climbed through Cliff House at Mesa Verde National Park, hiked and camped in Rocky Mountain National Park, breathed the cold, crisp air at the top of Mount Evans and slid down the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Colorado has been calling me for many years.

From an early age, I have been interested in the outdoors and the experiences that come with it. As people’s lives become more complicated and stressful, recreation can be a catalyst for change. I would like to be part of that process by showing people the fun, camaraderie, environmental awareness and personal growth and fitness that can be experienced and achieved through time spent in the outdoors. I am a veteran of the United States Navy who has spent five years stationed in Japan and Guam. During my years in the Navy I gained experience working with different cultures.

In 2017, I graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with a degree in Adventure Education. In the future, I aspire to work with veterans and help them find solace in the outdoors. In my spare time, I enjoy DJing, road-tripping, mountain biking, backpacking and visiting as many national parks as possible.

Dan Harris

I grew up in Wayland, MA, where my access to a lot of conservation land cultivated an early appreciation for nature, which led me to volunteer positions at animal sanctuaries around the state. In my junior year of high school, I participated in Deer Hill’s Costa Rica Exploradores expedition, an experience which has had a lasting positive impact on my life, and was critical in steering me towards the amazing career path I’m on today. For a while I lived in St. George, Utah completely falling in love with the region, where I further developed my interest in outdoor film, rock climbing, and backpacking. Currently I’m attending Fitchburg State University, earning my B.A. in Filmmaking. Knowing firsthand the incredible impact outdoor organizations like Deer Hill have on people’s lives, my goal is to produce films that support the work and message of the outdoor community.

Photography Interns

Collecting photos for our website and to share with participants and families, joining groups in the field–on river expeditions, in the mountains and at service sites, managing an archive of thousands of historic photos, the Outreach team couldn’t do it without their invaluable efforts.

Ben Calvert

Photography Intern

Ben comes to Deer Hill from New York City. He works at a high school in Newark, NJ as the Head of Student Activities. Ben’s passion for the outdoors and service comes from his experiences mountain biking, backpacking, working on trail crews and serving as an AmeriCorps member. Ben is very excited to spend the summer as Deer Hill’s photography intern.

Nick Beattie

Photography Intern

I am a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth earning my undergraduate degree in Environmental and Outdoor Education with a Business Administration Minor. I was born and raised in Minnesota and love exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I have a passion for photography, the outdoors, music, and people. In my free time I like to fly fish, be on the water, hike, camp, mountain bike, play my guitar, snowboard, and play pond hockey. I finished my Track and Field Career this May at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I was one of the captains on the team and trained for the 60 meter dash, 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4×100 meter relay, and javelin. I have been employed as a life guard for four summers in my home town of Blue Earth, MN, counselor and climbing/high ropes instructor at Camp Lincoln for Boys in Nisswa, MN, intern at the Telluride Academy, kayak guide for The Duluth Experience, and sales associate at Duluth Pack in Duluth, MN.

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