Deer Hill's Heart and Soul

The Staff at Deer Hill

35 years ago, 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 a knowledgeable and dedicated staff. Programs are led by an experienced field staff, supported by interns at peak season. After all these years, we still strive to educate, empower, and help people create fond memories in nature. Together, we are moving forward onto the next adventure, with confidence in our step and an eye on the horizon.

Leadership Team

John Palmer

Operations Director

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 and Finance Director

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.


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.


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!


Gabe Deall

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 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.


Renee Palmer

Kitchen and Food Manager

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.



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 doing it all with Deer Hill.


Doug 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.


Beverly Capelin

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



Field Staff at Deer Hill Expeditions




Kevin Jacobs



Adventure Camp Staff Leaders — Deer Hill Expeditions



Adventure Summer Camp Staff Leaders — Deer Hill Expeditions


Program Leader

Adventure Summer Camp Staff — Deer Hill Expeditions


Wilderness Adventure Camp Staff — Deer Hill Expeditions


Deer Hill Expeditions Staff Leader


Adventure Summer Camp Staff — Deer Hill Expeditions


Adventure Company Program Staff - Deer Hill Expeditions


summer camp staff - 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.




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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