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

Program Sales 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!


Lizzie Heine

Admissions Manager

I was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and was fortunate enough to have a father who took me outside often. From overnight kayak trips on remote rivers in Missouri to a bike packing trip on the Katy Trail, I spent much of my time outdoors and loved it. I decided to study a passion of mine and received a Bachelors at Colorado State University in English Literature. After graduating, I was set up for success in the field of property management in Missouri, however, shifted gears entirely after being exposed to backpacking. 9,000 miles and many smiles later, I can proudly say that I am a triple crown hiker having completed the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. As someone who has spent over a year of her life living under the stars, I believe in Deer Hill’s mission in truly finding oneself in the wilderness and am so excited to be a part of such an amazing company.


lizzie deer hill staff in colorado adventures

Jordan Lehman

Operations 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!


Rick Mendez

Programs Manager

I was born in the southern foothills of the Adirondack Mountain Range in Upstate NY, where I grew up hiking the “46ers” and discovered a love for the backcountry through my school’s Adirondack Mountain Club. After high school, I took a course with National Outdoor Leadership School which introduced me to my passion for outdoor education. With this new course under my belt and a hunger for more, I landed at Deer Hill Expeditions, working first as a basecamp intern and immediately after, a field guide. DHE is responsible for bringing my passion for outdoor education to the next level, offering me opportunities with experiential education for youth; and I am thrilled to be able to fulfill this passion through an administrative role. Although I can be found enjoying every type of outdoor activity under the sun, my favorite and most common is river trips, both single and multi-day. When we are not floating down a river canyon, my wife, Jocelyn and I live in Durango, CO with our cat, Moon.


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. 



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.

Samuel Smith

Hi! My name is Samuel Smith and I am a new intern for Deer Hill Expeditions for the 2022 spring season! I am extremely excited to be joining Deer Hill and starting a new journey with other like-minded individuals. I am currently a student at Ohio University and plan to graduate this spring semester with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Studies while also earning a minor in Geography. Ever since my childhood I have always enjoyed the outdoors, working to help other people in any way that I possibly can, and recreating in new places! This is why I chose to be a part of Deer Hill’s team. I aim to challenge myself and others through programs and projects that are part of a greater meaning. I hope to not only create an authentic connection to myself, but to everyone else around me as this new year at Deer Hill Expeditions begins!

Becca Ray

I was born and raised in Acoma, NM on the Pueblo of Acoma Reservation. I have spent most of my life on the Acoma reservation, being heavily involved with my cultural tradition. Much of my childhood was spent exploring the surrounding wilderness around my grandparents, listening to the downpour of rain with the crackling lightning and booming thunder, or talking with the elements and nature on my hikes. In the coming years, wanting to have a career where I worked outdoors became my goal in my academics. Being accepted into the Adventure Education major at Fort Lewis College was the first step toward a career in the outdoor industry. My time in Durango, CO, and having first-time experiences in backcountry backpacking and rock climbing have nurtured and flourished my love for the outdoors. As an intern here at Deer Hill I hope to gain new knowledge and skills but most importantly break out of my comfort zone to bring out my “authentic self.”

Erin Lang

Hi! My name is Erin Lang! I grew up in Louisville, Ky. I found my passion for the outdoors two hours from my house at the Red River Gorge. The Red has become a special place for my friends and I to explore. Not only has the Gorge allowed me to find my love for the outdoors, but it also allowed me to figure out my future career path. I am graduating in May from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration and a minor in Outdoor Experiential Leadership and Tourism. While in school, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand and learn more about their tourism. Studying abroad in New Zealand opened my eyes to new outdoor activities and provided the opportunity to engage in new things. A couple of my favorites were canyoneering, surfing, and black water rafting, which is not quite like white water rafting. I hope that this internship will provide me the opportunity to see new terrain and grow my passion for the outdoor industry!

Freya Bairdsen | Intern

I am a student at Warren Wilson College (near Asheville, NC), studying Conservation Biology and Outdoor Leadership. My goals in life are to be a good steward of our biodiverse planet and bring people closer to the natural world through first-hand experience and natural science education. I also currently enjoy barefoot running and playing hacky sack!

Zach Kuckerka | Intern

Zak Kucherka recently graduated from Angelo State University, earning his Bachelor of Business Management. He will start his second year of graduate school this fall at Texas A&M University-Commerce to pursue a Master of Business Administration. Outdoor Education is one of Zak’s biggest passions, and he loves to help facilitate experiential learning in the great outdoors. Zak started outdoor education while working at Angelo State’s Outdoor Adventure program. Zak currently works at A&M Commerce as the Graduate Assistant of Outdoor Adventures, where he inspires and encourages students to connect and grow in the Outdoors. When he isn’t working, teaching outdoor skills, or studying, you can often find Zak climbing, mountain biking, running, hiking, canoeing, or hammocking. Zak is excited to be a Summer Intern at Deer Hill and enthused to meet, work, and grow with all the amazing people here this summer!

Shannon Wood | Intern

Hi! My name is Shannon Wood, and I grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, right along the Jersey Shore. I will graduate from the University of Delaware in the Spring of 2023 with a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Insect and Wildlife Conservation. Growing up and being so close to the beach nurtured my love for the outdoors and wildlife conservation. Anything that involves swimming or splashing around in a body of water, you can count me in! I also found my love for hiking and camping while volunteering on a potable water project in the Sacred Valley of Peru. While there, I hiked up Machu Picchu, and ever since then, promised myself to keep hiking through extraordinary places. While on this service trip, I also felt an immense sense of community with those around me, which I hope continues through my work at Deer Hill.

Madison King | Intern

My name is Madison King, and I am from Noblesville, Indiana, just 20 minutes from Indianapolis, home of the Indy 500! Although I grew up in the Midwest, where all the beautiful views you can get are of corn fields, hiking and venturing out into beautiful parks wherever I can have been a huge hobby of mine. Long-distance running is also something I am very passionate about, and I compete for the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons! Running allows me to explore places in nature in a fun way. This past summer, I took a trip to Colorado and hiked at Rocky Mountain National Park, which was the first time I had ever been out west, and it made coming back to the country vibe of Indiana very hard. Looking into my future, I want to someday work within a field that works outside and is collaborative with nature, making Deer Hill Expeditions a great opportunity. I am very excited to meet everyone and have a fun summer!

Nez Choate | Intern

Hi! My name is Nez (short for Nezzarae- kinda rhymes with Desire, just spelled really different). I will enter my final year for my bachelor’s at Grand Canyon University in Biological Sciences. A few things that I love; are animals, plants, and anything to do with painting. A few things I hate…bugs, the smell of bug repellent, and peppermint- which is kind of ironic and really funny. Regarding my future, I have yet to figure out what I want to do, but I hope this summer internship will lead me in the right direction! I am super excited to be experiencing this opportunity.

Frankie Ostenson | Intern

I grew up on an organic farm in a rural town called Hope, Maine, where I developed a strong appreciation for the natural world around me. Currently, as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, I am double majoring in Biology and Sociology. I am interested in pursuing outdoor education because I believe helping others develop an emotional connection to their environment is a fulfilling way to improve humanity’s relationship with the earth and one another. My love for wilderness and adventure brought me to Deer Hill for the first time while in high school, and I am so excited to be returning as an intern this summer!

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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