Our Heritage

the first ever Deer Hill backpacking trip

30 years of inspiring journeys

At Deer Hill, we are currently entering our 30th year of powerful wilderness and service journeys for teenagers. That’s 30 years of fun and learning, hundreds of groups, thousands of river miles run, thousands of miles of trail hiked or biked, hundreds of summits climbed, thousands of friendships forged, many vital service projects completed, a million preconceptions about Native peoples shattered, and around about one billion smiles. More than this, we know that 30 years means countless moments of personal triumph and transformation, when a young person realizes what they are truly capable of. It feels good.

Where we began

Beverly and I left our teaching positions in 1983 because we had a dream. We wanted to do something that would change the lives of young people in a deep and soulful way. We didn’t spend very much time thinking about what everyone else was doing. We looked inside, and focused on things that mattered.

So, in 1984, Beverly and I took a handful of former students and friends camping for three weeks, and it worked. We invested in this beautiful property in Southwest Colorado, and made our home and Basecamp here. We built a community of people who are passionate about providing these kind of experiences for young people. Now we welcome several hundred young adults each year to Deer Hill. We see lives change before our eyes and we know that the dream has come true.

What does our history mean to you?

Over the years, many things have changed at Deer Hill, but not the important things. Beverly and I are still very involved in the running of Deer Hill, ensuring that the values at the heart of Deer Hill – honesty, depth, courage, diversity, “heartfulness”, excellence, service – are upheld in everything we do. Beverly still tends the “home fires”, overseeing the grounds and facilities at Basecamp, and manages the creation of our delicious menus. I still get out on our trips, sit in Circle with students, lead sweat lodge ceremonies, and guide our staff training; where new and old staff alike come together to  honor and further the “Deer Hill Way.”

Of course, we’ve gotten bigger, but not too big. Whereas other companies have chosen to offer more and more programs in more and more locations, we’ve stayed true to our original mission, getting to know our programming areas in incredible depth – nobody knows the Southwest like Deer Hill – developing a skilled and loyal staff that is second-to-none, and forging deep and lasting friendships with our Native American service hosts. We still maintain our family home at Basecamp, just like we did in the old days. Staying small, we are proud that Deer Hill has remained a family, a family we’d love you to join.

Doug Capelin, Founder and Director