Tales from the Diablo Divas

community group flowers
Cultural differences, language barriers, scalding heat, strong headwinds, steep climbs, heavy backpacks, illnesses, and injuries were some of the challenges not just overcome but conquered by the all female Youth Leadership Adventures group that called themselves “The Diablo Divas.”
This group of eight young women ages 14-16 and their three fearless lady leaders spent eight days exploring Diablo Lake, Thunder Creek, Fourth of July Pass and Panther Creek before heading back to the comforts of home.  I feel overwhelming joy to have been part of The Diablo Divas and will never forget the times we shared in the backcountry in early July.
To tell the story of the Divas I feel it necessary to share some of my best memories from the trip as they connected with our Youth Leadership Adventures curriculum themes.

Connection to Place and Community

The group comes from different backgrounds, different schools, different experiences;  these differences were celebrated as were the similarities.  On our first day of canoeing on Diablo Lake we stopped at the beautiful Hidden Cove Campsite. This was the first time the Divas were alone in the “wild” and in an instant our differences were blown away with the afternoon breeze.  Our community was forming, through giggles and games, reflection and appreciations. The group drafted a promise to each other, to hold all accountable for the success of the group.   This Community Agreement was acknowledged by each, celebrating our strengths and supporting our challenges.  We traced our own unique hand on a symbolic flag representing the strength of the Diablo Divas.
I was expecting a challenge and I got one, in a very good way.  However, I was not expecting to learn so much about myself and how to work well in a community. – Ella Brooks, Oak Harbor WA

Community BenuBenu, drawing on the community flag
Stewardship and Conservation

These powerful women completed a much needed service project at Buster Brown campground, improving tread on the access trails, removing overgrown brush, re-vegetating areas with native plants, and re-routing a social trail to the beautiful new bathroom.  Empowerment from this project was clear by the smiles and giggles emanating from our group as we skipped and danced around our new trail system, looking forward to sharing this place with others in the future.  The triumphant Divas, soaked in sweat and covered in grime jumped into the glacial waters of Diablo Lake for a well deserved soak.
Everything you do is going to help the future.  Youth Leadership Adventures is an adventure; never give up, because you can do it. – Purnima Kafley, Tukwila WA

stewardship groupTired students, during a long and exciting day of stewardship at Buster Brown campground
Leadership and Communication

Leadership and Public Speaking are some of the many skills the Youth Leadership Adventure students hope to gain during their time in the North Cascades.  The Diablo Divas are no different.  After 5 days of canoeing, service work, backpacking, community building, naturalizing, and learning each of the students had a chance to share their experience with a group of enthusiastic adults.  The newest generation of graduate students from Western Washington University, Cohort 13, hiked into Thunder Camp to be inspired by stories of empowerment, personal growth, physical challenges and team work told by these young amazing women leaders.  With the support of their new community each Diva stood up proudly demonstrating their new skills confidently.
You don’t know you have it in you until you try, then you are surprised at what you can accomplish. – Rhiannon Ayley, Bellingham WA

learning benuBenu (of the Diablo Divas) and Megan McGinty (former Institute graduate student and staff member) share a field guide
Field Science and Climate Change

Hiking to the top of Forth of July Pass is not easy, especially if you are carrying everything you need for the next 4 days on your back.  The Diablo Divas climbed the 2,400 vertical feet in 2.5miles during one of the warmest days of July.  The rewards at the top were bountiful, including incredible glacial views of Primus, Colonial, and Snowfield Peaks along with Neve and Borealis Glaciers.  Fourth of July camp is an amazing opportunity to see the expanse and rugged nature of the Thunder Creek watershed.  As the waves of heat emanated from our skin and the rock around us the recession of these formidable glaciers seemed imminent.  On the top here we contemplated the influence of these glaciers on the North Cascades ecosystem, the Skagit River watershed, the agriculture we depend on, the hydroelectricity powering Seattle and the five species of pacific salmon that spawn in these cold waters.  The Divas brainstormed ways they could help protect these wild places and made that promise to the glaciers, trees, rivers and lakes that inspired through these eight amazing days in North Cascades National Park.
I got more than I expected and hoped for on this trip.  I’ve learned everything about nature.  Also, I’ve seen how far I can push myself and accept challenges.  I have gained a lot of skills during this week.  I learned how to canoe, hike, be a good leader, to speak in front of people, make friends, and this was my first time sleeping in a tent!  I’ve experienced different challenges mentally and physically and I’m grateful for all. – Meron Abdisa, Shoreline WA

backpackgroupThe fierce and fearless Diablo Divas at the top of Fourth of July Pass

The Diablo Divas are now back at home, transferring their newfound passions, knowledge and skills to their friends and relatives.  While the adventure is over for now I know these Divas will make a difference in the world, continue pushing their boundaries and overcoming challenges along the way.  I hope we will all be together again soon at the North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference Nov 9th and 10th.
I got much more than I expected from Youth Leadership Adventures and I loved it so much.  I made amazing friends and learned incredible, useful leadership skills I will hold onto forever.  This was an amazing life-changing experience. – Brianna Mountain, Mount Vernon WA

swimming group1Swimming in the icy cold and emerald glacial water of Diablo Lake
community groupRelaxing in a grassy area near Buster Brown campground
canoes on diablo lakeCanoeing on the glassy surface of Diablo Lake

And please help North Cascades Institute win $25,000 for our summer youth programs! Simply visit http://bit.ly/TNFExploreFund and click on the blue VOTE button beneath North Cascades Institute’s video. Fans can vote once a day through July 31; winners will be announced August 1. We thank you for your support in helping us get more kids outside.

Leading photo: Many hands can build a community. All photos by the author.

Aneka Singlaub graduated from North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed program in 2010. She currently holds the title of Youth Leadership Coordinator. Originally from Western Colorado, Aneka loves being outside and exploring the environment around her. You can find Aneka slowly adapting to the moist Pacific Northwest by skiing, climbing and mountain biking, even in the rain.


  1. Ms Jerry Rutherford

    Thanks for sharing — inspiring!!

  2. Leslie Franzen

    Love seeing these girls experience what this program brings to them-keep up the good work and thanks for sharing the great photos-love the daisy chains!

  3. Saul

    Delightful, daring, dangerous, dramatic, deciduous, daffy, DIABLO DIVAS ROCK!!!

  4. Ella

    Reading this almost a month later and missing camp and the Divas like crazy. That was definitely one of the best weeks of my life.

Leave a Comment