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 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 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.


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!


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

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.


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.



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 doing it all 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.

Catherine Barricklow

Cat is a Deer Hill Expeditions alumnus and field 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. A Waldorf “lifer”, Cat currently spends her fall, winter and spring as a teacher at Tara Performing Arts High School as well as production manager/producer of the Nomad Playhouse in Boulder. She also serves as a guest director of theatre at Brevard College in North Carolina. 

Cat B with a service host

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 and has been leading groups into the wilderness ever since. 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 snowboard 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 Jacobs

Michael Weiss

Michael was born in Oakland, California, just two miles from the San Francisco Bay. He spent his childhood exploring the waters and the foothills of coastal California, and although he doesn’t surf or skateboard, he is truly a Californian at heart. He is laid back, lighthearted, and of course he plays volleyball. In high school Michael worked on an urban farm in Berkeley where he learned the basics of environmental ethics and ecology. Because of his work there he was inspired to pursue an academic career in earth sciences. Four years later, Michael graduated with degrees in geology and environmental studies from SMU, where he led backpacking trips and worked as a student manager for the school’s backcountry trips program. He has worked two seasons for the National Park Service: one as a wildlife surveyor in Point Reyes National Seashore and another doing backcountry patrols in Yellowstone National Park.

Adventure Summer Camp Staff Leaders — Deer Hill Expeditions

Katy Blanton

Katy is an experienced whitewater raft guide based in Salida, Colorado, where she spent seven summers with a commercial boating company on the Arkansas River. After a transformative initiation to the outdoors on a NOLS semester in the San Pedro Martir Mountains of Baja California, Katy has continued to connect her passion for education and permaculture with travel, through expeditions in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Katy earned her degree in Sociology from College of Charleston and has worked with youth on diverse nutrition, mental health, and adventure therapy programs. With infectious enthusiasm, she loves to support student growth by helping them rise to the challenge on the river and in the backcountry.

Sarah Goldberg

Sarah is a Vermont transplant originally from the pine barrens of South Jersey. Attracted to the power of shared work and a communal sense of place, she pursued a BA in Biocultural Restoration with a minor in Natural History from Sterling College in Vermont. While enrolled, she focused on food systems, environmental ed, indigenous cultural lifeways of the Americas, and ecology. You could say she’s a bit of a lifetime generalist, making it easy for her to connect with a broad range of program participants. Sarah has accumulated over 220 field days over the past 4 years alone! When not on course, you can find Sarah in VT hiking, teaching snowboarding, or snuggled up with a good book while homesteading on a farm in a tiny home with her partner. She digs keeping species lists in her field notebook, fancy camp cooking, gear repair, birding, resupply days that involve eating out, and sunbathing.

Kayla Nardozzi

Kayla grew up in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and went to school at the University of Arizona where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies & Sustainable Plant Systems. Kayla believes in the conjunction of outdoor adventures and environmental service work, as there is power to fundamentally change the way we view ourselves and the spaces we meander through. Kayla excels at providing a positive, safe, and fun environment for youth to explore the outdoors! 

Elliot Cohen

Elliot is a life-long adventurer with a deep appreciation for wild places and the incredible diversity of life on Earth. He has been leading in the outdoors since 2005, with adventures spanning four continents. Elliot is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Wilderness Medicine Institute, and the Patagonia Mountaineering School. He holds a bachelor of science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado Denver. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and fellow of the National Science Foundation and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Above all else, Elliot loves to spend time with his wife and daughter homesteading in Boulder, CO.

Alma (Al) McKown

Al is a product of the Southwest and Four Corners Area. Born in Albuquerque and raised in Durango, she is most at home surrounded by scrub oak, juniper, dry desert air, high mountain passes, and red chile dinners. Al started enjoying the outdoors on solo adventures as early as she was allowed to by exploring the San Juan Mountains on long mountain runs, backpacking in Utah and Colorado, floating the rivers, and meandering around Latin America. When not taking in the awe of the natural world, Al loves to think about the best ways to support young people through education and community building. She is un-apologetically a math nerd, and when the mountains are not calling, can be found baking, reading, and attending college. Al is excited to combine her passions for outdoors adventure and education this summer to grow along side the participants at Deer Hill!


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.

Sylvie Amstutz

I was born in my canyon home at the gateway of Yosemite National Park, where growing up I had the opportunity to explore mountains, rivers, and rocks at a young age. Now, as an Environmental Studies student at the University of California Santa Cruz, I have been living on the central coast of California, going to school (virtually this year), and working at the University Arboretum. Here, I am learning from my professors and peers as well as the unique coastal landscape, where I can run from hills, through majestic redwood forests to the Pacific Ocean in a few miles. Having lived and learned in these incredible places encourages me to help more people access outdoor and intercultural learning experiences. As an intern, I’m excited to take a supportive role for the organization, share some silly and enthusiastic energy, and learn from the incredible staff, students, and land.

Jackson Cowart

My name is Jackson Cowart I am 21 and from Milledgeville, Georgia which is about an hour and a half south of Atlanta. I am 6’8 and haven’t found anything in the outdoors that I don’t enjoy. My hobbies include Playing guitar, soccer, rock climbing (even though there aren’t any mountains where I live) and I have recently picked up surfing even though the east coast doesn’t offer very much. I am super excited for this summer and look forward to everything. I am trained in many different first aid and outdoor skill sets as well as I can cook minute rice in 59 seconds. I have worked for organizations similar to Deer Hill Expeditions in the past and am super excited to work this summer. I cant wait!

Sophie Mann-Shafir

I grew up in New Jersey, though my family and I spent a couple of years living in Argentina and Spain. During my high school years, I went backpacking in the western and southwestern U.S. for a couple of summers, including with Deer Hill on Wilderness Leadership in 2017. Now a rising senior at Wesleyan University, I am majoring in History with concentrations in Social Movements and Race and Ethnicity. I have been an active member and leader of Wesleyan’s Outing Club, through which I’ve gotten to know a lot of Connecticut’s natural beauty while bonding with my peers during hiking, bouldering, and camping excursions. Spending time in the outdoors has been a highlight of college for me, particularly during the pandemic, and I am so excited to return to Deer Hill this summer as an intern!

Emily Nicholos

Hi! My name is Emily Nicholos and I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m so excited to be spending my summer with Deer Hill Expeditions. I’ll be graduating from NC State University in December with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and a minor in Environmental Education. What I love about living in NC is we have so many opportunities for outdoor activities. We have both the mountains and the beach within a couple hours drive, so hiking in Nantahala National Forest and swimming in the Atlantic ocean are some of my favorite adventures.
Fun fact: This will be my first time out west and I get to celebrate my birthday at Deer Hill on June 28th, so this summer is going to be so much fun and we’ll have some excellent adventures!

Briana Picquelle

My name is Bri Picquelle. I am 24 years old and recently graduated from Chico State University (via Zoom) in December. Go Wildcats! A lot of my time there was spent in the rock climbing gym, biking around town, hiking with my dog/bff at the time Nala, or making collages out of old magazines. I became an assistant leader for an awesome program called Adventure Outings, which specialized in student-led recreation trips in Northern CA. Now that I am back in my sunny Southern CA hometown of Costa Mesa, I have picked up roller skating, and can often be found hanging out at the local nature center, trying out different Italian restaurants, thrifting, hiking and kayaking. I also love taking photos, and am fortunate enough to own a Polaroid Sun 600 (that belonged to my grandpa!). I am so excited to see what this summer holds, and am eager to help out and learn from this team!

Noah Sanday

I grew up on a small farm tucked away in the mountains outside of Bellingham, Washington. In the early years, we were always outside. As life on the farm grew, with the addition of a herd of cows, a flock of chickens, ducks, geese, and our dog Coco, so did my love of the natural world. I spent much of my time before and after school caring for our animals and soon found myself caring for the wildlife on the farm as well. I began birding, and hiking around the Pacific Northwest, putting up bird boxes for the Tree Swallows, and spending the weekends planting native flowers. I am currently pursuing a BA in Art and Environmental Conservation from Western Washington University, and I will graduate this summer. As an intern, I am excited for the opportunity to be at Deer Hill and get a better understanding of the wonderful work Deer Hill is doing.

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.

Angela Fosco

Angela Fosco is a San Francisco, CA native who has lived in Durango, CO for the past 9 years with her husband Zac and two children Charlie(13) and CeCe(9). She studied Nutrition Science at UC Davis and is a California Culinary School graduate. She works as a cafeteria manager for the 9R School District during the school year. Her hobbies include her hobby farm which one day aspires to be a self sustainable homestead. She and her family enjoy all that the beautiful southwest has to offer such as camping, hiking, water sports, winter sports and much more. She is thrilled to be a part of the Deer Hill team to share her wealth of knowledge and experience.

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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