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.

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!

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

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.

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.

Deer Hill Foundation Staff

Max LaPrade

Director of Advancement

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.

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.

Andrew Harvison

Andrew grew up in Boulder, Colorado, adventuring in the mountains and developing a deep love for the beauty and power of mountains and wild places. While going to school at University of Colorado he chanced upon a job in outdoor education, leading trips for a science based outdoor program for youth. Since then, he has worked for many organizations. He has been lucky enough to lead trips all around the West, camping, backpacking, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and even fossil hunting! When he’s not on course, you will likely find him reading corny sci-fi, playing the guitar, or trying to squeeze one more run out of a ski day.

Lee Ringer

Lee hails from the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Growing up he got his first exposure to the wilderness through the Boy Scouts and camping with his family. He attended college in the state capitol (Raleigh) at North Carolina State University where he studied Sport Management and Outdoor Leadership/Education. His professors and peers in the Outdoor program at his college inspired him to follow a path in Outdoor Education. So he packed up his car and moved out west in search of mountains, deserts, and meaningful work. He believes he has found those exact things here in the American Southwest where he now calls home. He has been working for 5 years in Outdoor Education and there is no end in sight! Working with teenagers from around the world to develop outdoor skills, gain self-awareness, create friendships and memories, and increase self-esteem has been challenging but ultimately very rewarding! In his free time you will find him reading, climbing or paddling, but if there is snow on the ground it is guaranteed that he will be skiing!

D Formosa

Born and raised in the tropical city of Miami, FL is where D’s love for the outdoors began through sea kayaking, surfing, and SUPing. She continued her education at University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and received a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Minor in Anthropology. In 2014, she moved to Colorado to follow her passion for water and began raft guiding on the Arkansas River. Since then she has continued to explore mountains and rivers all over the world and share the experience with others. She looks forward to another season at Deer Hill in the beautiful Southwest Colorado.

Kreston Johnson

Kreston grew up in the high deserts and mountains of northern New Mexico. Having traveled in Indonesia, Mexico, and Central America, he has returned to the Southwest to share his love of “wild places” with young adults. A Waldorf graduate, Kreston has helped guide weeklong backpacking and river trips with the Santa Fe Waldorf High School. He has also worked as a ski patroller in New Mexico, and on a Semester program with Kroka Expeditions in the Northeast. He completed his EMT-Basic (Emergency Medical Technician) and Wilderness First Responder through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Kreston was a student on three Deer Hill Expedition courses. He is returning for his sixth season as field staff. Kreston brings his joy for wilderness living, backcountry cooking, and exploring the canyons and mountains of the southwest to the field.”

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. Over the years, he has through hiked all of the long trails in the country, been a rafting guide, a hiking guide, a ropes course facilitator, a snow board instructor, and now a father! 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.

Katherine Haveman

I am a Washington state native who grew up playing in the North Cascades. I developed an interest in rock climbing, kayaking, mountaineering, and photography while in college, and have fostered these skills by becoming further involved with outdoor recreation programs and conservation organizations. I am currently pursuing an advanced degree in sustainable tourism.

Nate Merkle

I am from outside of Cleveland, Ohio and from an early age I spent my time outside exploring creeks and forests around my hometown. I have been passionately involved in outdoor pursuits and traveling ever since I left for college a few years after high school. I received a degree in Ecotourism & Adventure Travel from a small college in southeast Ohio and have been on the move ever since. I have lived in North Carolina and California, and have been fortunate enough to spend time traveling abroad. The lessons I have learned and the people I have met while being in the outdoors have shaped my life and solidified my belief in helping others and participating in activities that promote healthy lives. I am extremely excited to be a part of Deer Hill’s mission and look forward to improving upon my own experience and knowledge in the field.

Thalia Quintero

I graduated from Washington State University in Pullman WA in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a minor in Sociology. I have an older sister, two younger brothers, and a pet guinea pig named Chai which I named after my favorite tea. Some of my hobbies include: hiking, riding my bicycle, running, hanging out with my friends, and doing crafts. I grew up in the small town of Mattawa in Eastern Washington; growing up in a small town motivated me to travel around the world. Fun fact, I have traveled to five different countries within the last four years and so far my favorite has been Australia. Looking forward to a fun summer in Colorado!

Shawnae Holliday

I grew up on the south side of Chicago. As a kid I would always watch nature documentaries with my grandmother. This is where my love for the outdoors first started. Before college I played basketball, ran track, and sailed. However, it was not until college that I actually started to gain any true outdoor experience. I am now a proud graduate of Western Illinois University. In college I majored in Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration, and minored in SCUBA. College opened many doors for me when in outdoor education, from the camping trips I went on with my friends to the dive adventures I pursued through the SCUBA program. In my spare time you can find me hiking, swimming, running, diving, sailing, reading or exploring some awesome, super cool place.

Ruby Smith

I grew up in the flat, and very windy, city of Chicago. When I took my first trip with Deer Hill when I was 15, I absolutely fell in love with the west and how wild it was; I knew I had to come back. I came back the next summer and completed Wilderness Leadership, where I met some incredible, life-changing people and formed some of my fondest memories to this day. I spend every moment I can exploring the backcountry and finding new passions outdoors. I enjoy everything from climbing and canyoneering to skiing and canoeing. This past year I transferred to Colorado State University to get a degree in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and pursue my passion for the outdoors. In my free time, I can be found traveling, attempting to learn guitar, or obsessing over cute dogs! Returning to Deer Hill has been a dream of mine and I can’t wait to spend the summer working hard alongside the fabulous Deer Hill staff. I hope to one day have the same impact on others that my Deer Hill courses had on me.

Mollye Zahler

I grew up playing among giants in the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, California. I am a recent graduate from the University of Washington, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in biology. As a two-time Deer Hill alumni, I value experiential education, and brought to experience to mine as a researcher in a molecular plant biology lab and as a tutor in Seattle public high schools. In the future I hope to work with youth to increase access to education and outdoor recreation for populations that typically face more barriers to such opportunities. This summer I am excited to learn and grow outside of academia while exploring the Southwest!

Austin Smith

I am a third year student at Colorado State University majoring in Natural Resource Tourism. I love anything and everything outdoors! I am a recipient of the Virginia Gold Medal Congressional Award and have quite a bit of experience with expeditions as well as wilderness survival. I’ve gone through Deer Hill’s Canyon Country program as well as Wilderness Leadership and they were by far my favorite programs I’ve had the pleasure of completing. Deer Hill helped me discover more about myself and the wonderful world that we live in, and I hope to help others do the same.

Dylan Bland

I was born and raised in upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region in the small town of Lansing. I grew up doing many outdoor activities, which have always guided a way in my life. I recently graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Science in Outdoor Adventure Leadership, and earned a minor in environmental studies along the way. I have been doing work in this field the past three years and have loved it. I am excited to see what Deer Hill will bring my way this summer season and how it will further me as an aspiring outdoor leader.

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