As we approached the road to the lighthouse, my husband perked up. “R/C gliders!” he exclaimed, eyes bigger and even brighter than normal. He has flown these remote control motorless aeronautical man toys off and on over the past 15 years, and the allure of the sport has not yet subsided. The folks at this location were no amateurs. It was what the locals called a “mild” day at Cape Blanco State Park, with winds around 30 mph. The more “docile” flyers (comparatively!) launched and maneuvered their craft, with up to three-meter wingspans, off the north-facing cliff, spinning, spiraling and barrel rolling through the air currents. But it was the high-speed boomerang circles (we later learned was called dynamic soaring) off the south side of the bluff that really got Scott revved. Using the ridge wind and the dead space in between, much like pelicans or other wave-skirting seabirds, speeds of up to 500 mph can be achieved by doing a series of climbs and dives.

Although Cape Blanco State Park is a common R/C glider location, it turns out we had encountered a special Southern Oregon Slopeiens event, Slopefest 2012, with several dozen R/C pilots flying and camping nearby. So the skies at the cape were unusually busy. I suspect the much more moderate and out-of-date craft in our garage will be dusted off soon after our return from this trip!

The gliders were just a bonus though. The draw of the location is, of course, Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Touted as the oldest and most western lighthouse of Oregon, the smooth white tower hosts a Fresnel lens at it summit and is a great destination for a walk.

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Visitor center

75 Steps Wheels:

The first stop is the visitor center. It can be reached in about 75 steps from the nearest parking spaces. If necessary and available, a handicapped parking pass can get you within 10 paces (but then, we’re trying to keep moving right?). The center has both a museum portion and a store portion, both modest in proportion.

Walk Details for Visitor center
Terrain: Downward slope from parking, all pavement.
Seating: One bench and a couple of stools in the building. A picnic table sits next to the building, a bit out of the wind.
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: About 75 steps up a paved incline, southwest part of the parking lot.
Directions: From the parking area the visitor center is clearly visible.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

125 Steps Wheels:

For a small fee you can tour the lighthouse, guided by an educated volunteer. Due to my slow pace and no desire to visit the tower, my husband and I traversed the grassy slope on our own. There are three VERY STEEP steps to reach the lower building attached to the tower. We peeked in at the tour group seated on the benches that skirt the open entry room, then left discreetly and headed around the back (west side) of the lighthouse where we enjoyed views of choppy azure seas littered with Oregon Islands and a long stretch of coastline arcing north. The grass was spongy and difficult to traverse back there, and the headwinds on our visit of mild gusts were enough to nearly enough to blow me over. (I would not recommend attempting this back area on a more gusty day.) When you’ve had your fill of this piece of Oregon history, the picnic table at the bottom of the slope next to the visitor center is a nice rest stop before returning to your vehicle.

Walk Details for Cape Blanco Lighthouse
Terrain: Uneven grass, mild slope to lighthouse.
Seating: None outside. A few benches inside.
Fee: No fee, unless you take a guided tour. ($2 at the time of our visit, available only during certain hours.)
Restrooms: About 75 steps up an incline, southwest part of the parking lot.
Directions: From the visitor center, head up the grassy slope to the lighthouse.