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.

Executive Team

Jason Kroll

Jason Kroll

Director of Programs and Strategy

As Director of Programs and Strategy, 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.

John Palmer

Director of Operations

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

Director of Advancement, Deer Hill Foundation

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!

Leadership Team

Merritt Winkler

Financial Manager

As a born and raised Colorado girl, I developed a deep understanding and appreciation for the natural environment and its power. A desire to explore beyond the Four Corners region took over just in time to embark on my own journey at 18, which led me to Massachusetts, California, New Zealand, Sweden, Romania, and Nicaragua (to name a few), only to return to the Southwest again and again. While I am never done exploring, I decided in 2014 that it was time to put down some roots, which is when I, along with my partner Ari, and our dog Tica moved to Mancos. With a degree in English Literature, I fell into finance accidentally. However, it was a happy accident, as it brought me to Deer Hill.

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.

Matt Mohi

Manager of Group Programs and Native American Engagement

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.

Anna Thorne

Program Sales Manager

I grew up surrounded by nature just outside Columbia, Missouri and while I’m definitely a Midwest girl at heart, I’ve always known I was destined to live and work in the mountains. Growing up, my parents helped me cultivate an appreciate for wilderness through countless camping and backpacking trips—this is something I’ll forever be grateful for. Upon graduating high school, I moved west and never looked back! Inspired by my love for storytelling and people, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Multimedia Studies from Fort Lewis College. I currently live in Durango, Colorado with my incredible partner Casey and our two rambunctious Australian Shepherds, Bucket and Ellie. I’m continuously grateful for Deer Hill and the opportunity to create meaningful connections on a daily basis.

Taylor Horton

Facilities Manager

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia but have moved all over throughout my life. I have lived in small towns and big cities all over the country and even spent time living in Europe as a child. I love being able to connect with new people and share experiences with them in the outdoors. I am passionate about hunting, fishing, skiing/snowboarding, and really anything else that means spending time with Mother Nature. I just recently graduate with a major in Business Administration from Fort Lewis College and am now beginning my career with Deer Hill Expeditions as the Facility Manager. It is my goal to maintain a facility at which staff and participants can come together to enjoy safe and successful expeditions.


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

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

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.

Caroline Goodman

Caroline was a Deer Hill participant three times and a member of our Basecamp staff before going on to become one of our more seasoned instructors. Caroline majored in Native American Studies at Vassar College, and during her tenure, spent a semester at Dine College on the Navajo Nation. Caroline’s approachable and kind nature, her attention to detail, and her sense of humor are appreciated by both her students and her co-workers. Her vast experience lead her to teach at Colorado Timberline Academy, The Traveling School, Chadwick School, and the Athenian School over the years. She received a Masters Degree in American Studies from UNM and currently is working at Prescott College teaching in the Adventure Education and Cultural and Regional Studies Programs.

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.

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.

Kelso Harris-Capuano


Kelso hails from New Hampshire where she learned to climb trees and walk in the woods as a kid. Migrating out west opened up a whole new landscape and world of possibility including attending Prescott College where she studied Environmental Studies and Adventure Education. Deer Hill’s unique programs, philosophy and family oriented community helped make Kelso into the outdoor professional she is. Kelso started her journey with Deer Hill as an intern in 2012 and continued as field staff over the following years. We are so lucky to have her back at Basecamp, but this time in the kitchen helping create unique and delicious meals.

Janet Fogel


Janet was born on a farm in Montana, lived in Idaho for 10 years, and moved to Southwest Colorado in 2011 with her husband and three girls. She has been the Nutrition Director of the Mancos School District since 2012 and enjoys feeding children every day, knowing that the healthy meals are creating healthy minds. Janet’s family, hiking, paddle boarding, biking, and skiing, are what she enjoys most — when she is not cooking for others!

2019 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.

Ellie Priester

Ellie’s family owns a cabin in the backwoods of northern Wisconsin, so she spent many summer (and winter, and fall) weeks fishing on the lake and exploring in the national forest nearby. Yet, she always fantasized about the “real” backcountry experience. Ellie finally got her chance once she started climbing in college. The university’s outdoor program took her out to real rock in Kentucky and Utah on her school breaks, and there was no turning back for her. Since then, she’s had the opportunity to climb her way around the States and many other countries as well. Traveling and connecting with the climbing community abroad is the highlight of the sport for Ellie, among countless others. After two years of studying English, she decided to pursue what she believes to be her most sustainable passion: the outdoors. Ellie signed up for a NOLS Semester for Outdoor Educators which just finished May 2019, and decided to transfer to Northland College this fall to study Outdoor Education. The constant challenges and priceless experiences she has encountered outside are what she wants to continue in her life as well as give to others. Ellie is excited to partner with Deer Hill’s meaningful vision to serve communities and bring people outdoors!

Ben Nutter

Ben comes from Pacific Palisades, CA and is getting a major in Religious Studies and a minor in Philosophy at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. Ben met Deer Hill through a trip his high school did rafting along the San Juan then backpacking out of the canyon. The experience and landscape lingered in his mind…. After doing a NOLS trip during a gap year Ben learned that the backcountry provided powerful sense of peace and focus away from the common modern distractions of city life. Ben enjoys to go backpacking and wants to improve his climbing skills in the future with hopes of becoming a climbing bum. Ben plans to share his belief in the creativity and confidence experiencing nature can inspire in people with all Deer Hill participants.

Jordan Lehman

Jordan grew up on a 5th generation farm in Iowa where she learned exactly how reliant on the Earth we are. Since then, she has pursued that love through a Biology Major at Earlham College, where she is graduating May 2019, and through leading backpacking and canoeing trips. Jordan can be found sitting on logs, smelling flowers, scuba-diving, or singing. She’s very excited to be interning at Deer Hill this summer!

Kyle Folsom

Growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Kyle developed his passion for the great outdoors at a young age. Everyday after school was spent playing out in the woods with friends until well after darkness had set in. As Kyle got older, he began looking towards other ways he could enjoy nature, quickly finding his passion for rock climbing and landing a job at a local climbing gym. This got him traveling to different climbing destinations across the Midwest, furthering his love for exploration and adventure. Once attending Kansas State University, Kyle made the decision to pursue a degree in Park Management and Conservation while enjoying a part-time job as a zip line guide. In addition to any and all types of outdoor recreations, Kyle loves drinking coffee, playing banjo, and making memories that last a lifetime!

Sophie Linett

As a graduate of the Santa Fe Waldorf School, Sophie was lucky enough to have wilderness experience built into her education, which included an amazing trip on the San Juan with Deer Hill in 2013. Sophie grew up in Chicago, so apart from family camping trips in Northern Michigan, she had little experience in nature until she moved to Santa Fe. Now, at college in Connecticut, Sophie realizes how much of a connection she feels to the land in the Southwest and how much she misses hiking and skiing and the beauty of the mountains. With some distance, Sophie has come to appreciate these things in a way that she never did when she lived there. Working on organic farms in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico has cemented her desire to spend time outdoors and her belief that exposing people to nature is key to creating communities that care about environmental issues. Sophie is majoring in science and technology studies with a minor in environmental studies at Wesleyan University, where she works on the student-led farm and play on the mixed ultimate frisbee team.

Janae Klimczak

Born and raised in a South Suburb of Chicago, IL, Janae did not experience the outdoors until later in life. She eventually fell in love with exploring the forest preserves nearby and knew the outdoors would hold a special place in her heart. Working at a Boy Scout camp located in the Huron-Manistee National Forest and working as an Adventure Trip Leader with her college, Illinois State University, she defined her passion and desire to pursue a career in the outdoor industry. To graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management, Janae will be interning with Deer Hill Expeditions until she graduates in May 2019. Janae is a huge Chicago Cubs fan who also loves spending her time in the outdoors camping, hiking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and is always looking for more activities to involve herself in!

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. Scott has worked at six different camps over the years, where he found his love for challenge courses and climbing. He finds that lead climbing serves as great meditation, as it requires all of his attention and focus to be successful. Scott’s indoor time is mostly comprised of going down rabbit holes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, listening to various podcasts, and pondering “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” His favorite podcasts are Up First, Planet Money, Freakonomics Radio, and WorkLife with Adam Grant. He loves Gino’s East Chicago style deep dish sausage patty pizza and his family.

Dani Simpson

Dani was born and raised in the knob hills of Kentucky and spent most of her childhood covered in dirt. Growing up her love for the outdoors was fostered through many camping trips with friends and family. She studied recreation administration with a concentration in outdoor recreation and recently completed a minor in environmental studies and sustainability. Dani will graduate from Western Kentucky University after the completion of the internship at Deer Hill Expeditions. Throughout college she has worked as a server and a tour guide leading cave and zip line tours at Lost River Cave in her hometown. In her free time you’ll find Dani hiking or backpacking, biking, kayaking, skateboarding, or enjoying a brew with friends. In the future Dani hopes to complete the Pacific Crest Trail and eventually start a backpacking guide service focused on healing through nature-based challenges.

Ian Hradisky

Ian is a student at Ithaca College and is am studying Outdoor Adventure Leadership (OAL). He grew up in a small town in the finger lakes region of New York called Montour Falls. Ian’s home was in the
countryside surrounded by forests and creeks and he spent most of his life running in the water and developing his love for nature. Ian has always dreamed of working outdoors and in the wilderness as a career. Ian loves to go fishing, camping, hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, and white-water rafting. He also enjoys reading and painting when he has the supplies. Ian is looking forward to going on adventures with friends to find new areas to explore and to stop and enjoy life.

Jenna Mulligan

Jenna was ever so fortunately born and raised in Durango, Colorado but moved to Eastern Washington to study Journalism. Writing has carried her in and out of the San Juan region multiple times, while she was also able to pursue traveling through parts of SE Asia, the Mediterranean, South America, and more. When Jenna is away from our southwest Colorado paradise, she misses the dry heat and the glimpses of snow-capped La Platas. Having access to nature and the outdoors makes her feel connected to whatever community she is in, and that empowerment, education, and connection is exactly what she loves about the Deer Hill programs. When the snow falls, Jenna loves to ski and occasionally coach awesome teenagers to do the same. At any given time, Jenna’s excited to bury her nose in a book.

Jacob Baker

Jacob is a recent graduate from Appalachian State University Class of 2019. He has a degree in Recreation Management with a concentration in Outdoor Experiential Education. Jacob loves working in the outdoors and helping facilitate awesome new experiences for people! He is from a small town in Sanford, North Carolina. He spent a lot of his childhood playing in the woods and began to develop a passion for nature. Jacob enjoys hiking, camping, climbing, backpacking, and fishing. Music is also a big part of his life; he loves playing guitar and jamming with others!

Blake Howard

Blake Howard is an avid outdoor adventurer. When he’s not working you can find him surfing, rock climbing or backpacking in the middle of nowhere. He grew up in Northern California playing just about any sport he had time for and moved to San Diego after he graduated military school at the Army and Navy Academy. Blake is excited to be at Deer Hill this spring and help facilitate wilderness adventures for teens.

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