We’re diving deeper into the national parks with a spotlight on the people who connect with them internally whether that’s through a career, a lifestyle, a passion, or simply being a local.
L. Renee Blount is an incredible visual storyteller, director, and athlete. She is a voice for intersectionality in the outdoor space and has been featured in Outside Magazine along with countless other outdoor brands. Now residing in the Bay Area, she has coast to coast familiarity with what is offered on the trails from climbing and biking to really knowing how to enjoy the outdoor life. You can follow her creative eye through her Instagram @urbanclimbr and check out her website www.wndrhaus.com for a deeper dive into her journey.
Q: As you know, our California Dreamin’ drop is here and as someone who lives in California that connects to the outdoor space, what makes California parks so different to you? Which do you tend to visit most often and why?
A: I’ve lived all over. You can find beauty in nearly every place. I deeply miss NYC, but it was tougher to be outside spontaneously (you had to plan more). So, switched coasts. For me, I love places where I can go from urban, coastal to mountain. That’s why I love it here. There’s so many epic day trips that can happen quite quickly. And when I’m not shooting campaigns, as a pro adventure photographer, I can train for most conditions.
Q: Many people find it hard to explore the outdoors in urban areas, especially places like New York City and LA. Being in the Bay Area, what gives you that balance of urban and outdoor time? How have you created time for yourself to evolve as a climber/outdoorist in a cityscape?
A: I’ve lived in all 3 places. Honestly, I flirt with returning to LA ALL of the time and being bi-coastal. LA is actually an amazing place for outdoor activities if you’re willing to be creative around traffic. There’s so much you can get to. In NYC, there’s amazing surf culture. It does take more planning, but I love taking the train up to Montauk from Brooklyn and going to the Rockaways. And then we’d always carpool to climb super frequently. In Atlanta, a place that’s home, it’s also a great spot as a person of color. You can climb easily (within 2-3 hrs) at some world class spots.
I absolutely love urban areas. I am inspired by fashion, culture, and aesthetic. I love an amazing day party after a really hard morning climb or run. I like being in places where there are talks and art talks. I just make time to have adventures, climb, and to wonder. That helps me stay at peace. But cities help me stay connected and inspired.
Q: What are your 5 essentials in your pack for a day hike on the California coast and what’s your go to trail tune?
- Sunscreen these days
- Reusable bottle to stay hydrated
- Small bag or pack with a camera
- Steezy hiking shoes (hike what you love and bring that flavor)
- Really good snacks that I pack in and pack out
Train tunes: So many. Depends on the mood– Steve Lacy, Earth Gang, to oldies. Here’s a favorite playlist of mine.
Q: In the last five years, what would you say has evolved the most with your motivation to grow and challenge yourself as an individual in the outdoor space (whether that’s through photography, hobby, career, personal development)?
A: To make sure I’m included on more expedition teams. It’s super to tough break into as a woman and as a person of color. I’m constantly training since I have to hold a camera and still I’m often in front of one. So, I have to dial in my kit, and make sure I’m ready.
Q: When looking at California’s diverse landscape, what drew your attention to this area initially to make that move from NYC?
A: The Bay Area is just because I love microclimates, and I worked in innovation. I never anticipated that running a creative studio and practice would happen full time. I simply moved to an area where I could:
1. EASILY get a haircut as a person of color (as many super outdoorsy places like diversity).
2. Have amazing day trips for climbing and adventures.
3. Visit snow.
After NYC and Boston, I needed a break from the months of salt and dreary times. But I enjoy being able to drive and easily visit.
Q: You have visitors coming in from out of town that have never been to California parks, both state and national, what would be your ideal intro trip for them?
A: Los Angeles - 3 to 4 days. 2 days in the city and go to Joshua Tree on a day trip. It’s totally doable. Especially if you’re uncertain about where to sleep or stay or feel nervous. Wake up early and watch the surfers in Malibu. Then grab acai at Sun Life Organics. Spend time in the Arts District downtown or go thrifting. Have a sunset at Griffith or hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. Eat amazing ramen. I love LA’s ramen scene. It’s the best in the U.S.
SF - 3 to 5 days. You’ll have to pick your major thing because there’s a lot. Walk the city of SF; it’s a romantic city. And then ride over to Sausalito. I’d definitely go up the coast to have oysters one day. I love the Marshall Store. Stop in Point Reyes Station. Drive up the coast (north of SF) if you don’t have time to visit Big Sur. It’s so beautiful and you’ll still see Redwoods too.
Go to Big Sur for a day if you’re nervous about going overnight. It’s totally possible. Don’t overthink it. Leave in the morning, and stop in Monterey to grab snacks or a sandwich at their Whole Foods and just drive. I stop there every time. Go to Big Sur if you have a person that can’t walk as far. There’s so much you can see at all the pull outs.
If you have an adventurous spirit, go to Yosemite if you haven’t. I love climbing in Toulume, which is at a higher elevation. And the eastern Sierras are such a gem. So much climbing, you can’t climb it all.
If you want to bouge out a little— surf in Bolinas and then go get oysters. Or go cycling in wine country. You can rent bikes there or in the city. You don’t have to do an official tour. Park in Healdsburg and cycle up Dry Creek Road. It’s super cute.
Q: Especially living in such a populated state, it’s tough to bring everyone's attention to leaving no trace. What’s your top rule of leaving a space better than you found it and how do you bring attention to this rule with your own work?
A: Bring reusable items. I teamed up with the state of California to do a few PSAs. If you believe in equity, simply discard things in the appropriate places and recycle. And if you see something, it’s okay to pick it up. Trash doesn’t always end up where you litter, it migrates in our rivers and oceans to vulnerable places. So, using reusable items goes a long way. :)