Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 166 - Corn Maze!

I have never been in a corn maze. As a an event that, in recent years, has become a part of mid-autumn as carving pumpkins and celebrating Halloween, this fact actually came as a shock to me when I took time to think about it. Although nearly every person I know has experience a maze carved into the rows of corn stalks in the abundant corn fields across the Midwest, I never made the time to tag along on these little adventures. This decision wasn’t a result of a lack of desire to have the experience, but was instead driven by a certain degree of indifference. Despite hearing how much fun my friends and family had taking on nearby corn mazes each year, I attributed the attractions to a children’s event akin to Trick or Treating. As a result, I never felt inspired to give a corn maze a try, even as the positive remarks they received from people I know persisted into my late 20s.

Given the positive opinions about corn mazes my friends maintained, I figured my first experience with the autumn event was worth tackling in my 31st year. Unfortunately, the rapid progression toward the end of the season caught me off guard into the early part of October, which sent me scrambling when I realized my window for experiencing a corn maze was closing quickly. Motivated by my last minute realization, I set to work finding a corn maze near the Madison area that could help me tackle this “I have never...” event sometime during the back half of October. Eventually, this helped me narrow in on the Treinen Corn Maze in Lodi, Wisconsin as the maze of choice for my first experience.

Corn Maze!
After coordinating a visit to the maze this evening with Rachael and our friends, Adam and Brandy, Rachael and I hit the road following this evening to make the 45 minute drive to Treinen Farms. Although it was barely after 7:00 pm when we arrived, the night was already heavy when we met Adam and Brandy at the Treinen parking lot. With cold, blustery air at our backs, we walked toward the corn maze entrance as we caught up and discussed the forthcoming event. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I asked the group about their experiences with corn mazes and traversing the puzzles at night. My inquisitiveness quickly helped us determine our group’s experience with a night run of a corn maze was limited, which caused some pause as we paid for our tickets, grabbed our flashlights, and headed for the maze entrance.

Corn Maze?
Following a brief introduction to the maze, a Treinen employee handed us the first piece of an eight piece overhead map of the corn maze. Explaining the remaining pieces of the map were to be found as we progressed through the maze, the employee pointed out the entrance and the map marker for the location of the second map piece. Intrigued by the challenge, I immediately began to examine the map to determine the easiest route to the first map marker. With the spatial reasoning portions of my brain firing, I quickly gathered my directional bearings and committed the route to memory. Although there was still hesitation regarding our course among some members of our group, I was ready to take on the maze, and I was confident I could make short work of the complex series of bends and turns.

Corn Maze!
Excited to get our task underway, the four of us made our final preparations for managing maps and lights as we headed to the corn maze entrance. Following a little deliberation about our first leg of the puzzle, we headed straight into the first long stretch of compounded earth lined by towering walls of brown corn stalks. Although voices of other maze-goers were carrying through the air around us, the first moments in the dark, vacant aisles of the maze were a bit daunting. Although I remained confident in my ability to navigate the space, the environment provided an unfamiliar and strange backdrop for transferring the map into physical space.

Undeterred by those slight points of hesitation, I pushed forward into the corn maze and led our group around the first bend in our route, which opened up into a series of intersecting paths leading through the rows of corn. The short distance between the crossing passageways initially caused some confusion in my mind, but once I compared the distances to the placement of the walkways on the map I quickly regained my orientation. In response, I deliberated with the group briefly to remove any remaining doubt in my direction, which helped us make a decision on our choice of direction. Consequently, we drove deeper into the field of corn as we closed in our first point of objective.

Moments later, we emerged into an open area populated by a substantial group of people surrounding a mailbox. Contained therein was a stacked of small papers containing the second piece of our corn maze map, which we quickly grabbed and attached to maps we received at the beginning of our journey. The expanded view of the first leg of the map cause me to promptly find our next map marker and devise the best route for our group to take. Within seconds I was ready to act, which caused some surprised reactions among our group. Although slightly uncertain about my stated approach, Rachael, Adam, and Brandy happily accepted my recommendation on our path. Although the other groups of people around us were turning to different routes away from the first mailbox, I reassured the group I had a grip on our direction. In turn, we marched off toward the center of the maze and toward our second map marker.

Building the map
The chosen route proved incredibly successful at reaching the second waypoint in the maze, which made each of remark at our pace through the maze. Apologizing for my pointed desire to conquer the challenge, I handed the next piece of the map to the members of our group and set to work tracking the next leg of our route. Before the rest of the group had a chance to gauge the choices from our location to the next map marker I began pointing out the route I thought was best for us to take. In response Adam let out a chuckle and said, “Wow, you’re good with maps, huh?” I laughed and shrugged my shoulders in return before giving the group a chance to discuss my proposed path. After a few moments they settled on the idea of simply following me through the rest of the course, which was a challenge I was more than happy to accept. With that, we began moving toward our third map marker as we cracked jokes and darted in and out of the rows of corn.

Something looks wrong here...
Our success with finding the markers labeled on our pieces of map continued through the next six waypoints as we maneuvered through the winding paths lined by aging stalks of corn. With the wind whistling overhead, our efforts guided us to each new piece of the map with relative ease, which meant we found ourselves closing in on the maze exit a little less than 30 minutes after passing through the entrance. Resolving to make the most of our remaining experience in the maze, we decided we would take the long way to the exit. As a result, I guided the group back to the center of the corn field and around a series of paths unnecessary to the completion of the maze. In our final moments in the maze we wound through turns in a dizzying route, which left Rachael and Brandy questioning my ability to navigate us to the exit. In response, I smirked and said, “I’ll show you I can,” before taking the group through three quick turns that led straight to the edge of the corn field. With that, we conquered my first ever corn maze, which left me feeling a slight degree of accomplishment from our efforts.


...And celebrating the victory!

After completing the corn maze, Rachael, Adam, Brandy, and spent some time exploring the other open areas of the farm. With available food and drink, we stopped to grab a few things to eat and chatted a bit as we drew the evening’s event to a close. As we walked back toward our cars in preparation to head home, our group chatted about the highlights from the night and about our impressions of the overall experience. While I found the challenge relatively easy to complete, our conversation made it clear the experience was more about getting out, doing something different, and having fun with a group of friends than anything else. On a night that would have likely been spent huddled under blankets indoors, the corn maze inspired us to get out and enjoy that night with some good company. That alone makes it worthwhile in my opinion, and the added challenge of navigating maze is simply icing on the cake. There is no doubt I will take on a corn maze again in the future. It’s just good fun, and I can always use more of that in my life.

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