SUTHERLIN, Oregon — Scott Haury has always had a love for the miniature.
Growing up, he used to build towns made from Hot Wheels tracks in his parent’s back yard, creating trails for the little toy cars in the dirt outside of their home. In the 1980s, he started using radio-controlled cars, commonly known as RC cars, small scale-model vehicles driven remotely with a controller.
Haury never imagined where his hobby would take him, however. Decades after using his first RC car, he’s now the owner of the Black Diamond RC Ranch in Sutherlin, a system of trails purpose-built for RC enthusiasts that stretches for over three miles in the hills just outside this Oregon town on I-5 about halfway between Eugene and the California border.
“This is pretty much my childhood, just on a much bigger scale,” Haury said. “I was playing with little Hot Wheels in the dirt, and now we’re here playing with these 1/6 scale monsters.”
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The RC ranch is built for what enthusiasts call “crawling,” where drivers use large, rugged vehicles to traverse off-road and rocky terrain. During the winter off-season, Haury said around 30 people come to the trails weekly, but during summer competitions, the number can skyrocket into the hundreds.
“When we first started, there was probably like five or six of us,” Haury said. “And now it’s just a constant flow.”
Haury calls himself an RC “addict” — he owns at least 15 large RC crawlers and close to 400 RC vehicles in total, including helicopters, planes and drones — but his journey to creating an RC ranch began with an accident.
Ten years ago, Haury, who works in construction, was badly injured. He broke his back, crushing four out of five vertebra in his lower lumbar, and used a wheelchair for six months.
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“That’s how it all kind of happened, is that I got bored after I hurt my back,” Haury said. “I built my first helicopter, and had fun with it, and then I started with my first crawler. We used to go to the park, but I was like, I have all this property right here, so I started building my own trails right out of my back door.
“We thought I would never walk right again,” Haury added. “The constant pushing past that point, it’s gotten me out here walking. It has been a rehabilitation for me, and I know a lot of guys that got into the hobby that got injured one way or another. … There was a lot of depression right after it happened, I lost my first house and so on, but I came onto this, and, you know, it brought me out of that.”
At first, Haury built the trails for himself, but friends convinced him to open them to the public eight years ago. Dozens came to the ranch on Saturday, some from cities hours away from Sutherlin. It’s a big draw — there just aren’t many places for “crawling” like Black Diamond, they say.
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Brian Brooks came with three of his friends from Albany — almost two hours away.
“This is the Disneyland of RC cars,” Brooks said. “I like it in the summer because we don’t have the water, but I like it in the winter because then it’s got the creek you can drive through. It all just feels so real.”
The trails wind up and down hills, feature small bridges over a creek that forms in the winter and numerous obstacles — one, Haury said, is called the “Widowmaker,” a pathway up a tree that leads to a RC-sized tightrope. A lot of cars crash, a lot of cars break — but it’s all part of the fun.
“I love the realism of it,” said Pierce Shields, who drove to the RC ranch from Eugene, along with his friends Seth Williams and Tyler Beavers. “It gives you that real feeling, my actual truck looks like my RC truck. It’s very similar, the way the physics work.”
For Haury, his favorite part of the ranch is seeing other’s reactions to it. He knows how much it’s helped him in the past and wants others to get the same benefits from it.
One child who frequents the ranch, Haury said, is a wheelchair user who, after a severe back injury, now is a RC enthusiast who operates vehicles with a custom controller that he moves with his elbow. Because of the child, Haury said, he wants to make the trails entirely handicap accessible.
“When he wants to crawl, he gives me a call, I unlock the gate and we’ll crawl all day together. He crawls just as good as some of the guys out here,” Haury said. “… I know what it’s like to be in the wheelchair. That boy loves it, the smile on his face, you know, he’s had issues to overcome, but I think this hobby has helped him mentally a lot.”
“Sometimes I can’t stand it because sometimes my back’s hurting,” Haury said. “But when I’m out here walking with these guys, and I see how much fun they have doing it, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it. You know, that’s the reason I do it.”
If you go:
For RC enthusiasts up for a road trip, the Black Diamond RC Ranch is located at 1387 E. 6th Ave., Sutherlin, Oregon. Learn more at facebook.com/blackdiamondrcranch.