At Chatfield Nature Preserve, the corn is high. Really high, as in nine feet tall, a rise tall enough to cover the pate of the old Corn King Giant. Grown from a special hybrid cornseed planted expressly because of its superior loft, it covers 5.3 acres of land, the sun-kissed product of 45,000 or so kernels planted last May in six-row swathes. And...it's cut in the shape of a spiderweb -- a web you can walk through, which takes anywhere from an hour to an entire evening, depending on how brave, savvy or foolhardy you happen to be. Welcome to the Corn Maze.
Not a new concept, but a challenging one all the same, Chatfield's second annual maze is unique in that it's the only true cornfield puzzle in the metro area. "The next closest corn maze is in Longmont or Berthoud," notes Chatfield caretaker Adam Lucas. Created under the auspices of the Denver Botanic Gardens, the reserve's parent organization, it was overseen by corn-maze maestro Brett Herbst, who designs mazes in fields all over the heartland.
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Herbst came in and directed the maze-cutting when the corn was two feet tall. How does he do it? "I can't give the secret out," Lucas says. If he did, every farm in Colorado would be opening its gates to the public each fall, which would be a bad business move. The maze, he adds, offers the public -- many of whom have no idea the reserve even exists -- a great introduction to his home turf (literally: Lucas actually does live on the preserve and will good-naturedly rub your citified nose in the fact that he doesn't have to drive to work).
Chatfield Nature Preserve, 8500 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton
Open 4-9 p.m. Thursdays, 4-10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays, September 1-October 31
$4-$8, 303-973-1964, botanicgardens.org
Plus, he promises, it's darned fun, especially after dark, when you'll need a flashlight -- on sale on the premises -- to pick your way around. Concession stands, an educational yurt with a spider museum and a pint-sized maze for kids 54 inches tall and under are included in the admission price. Oh, and leave your phobias at home: "This year," Lucas teases, "I think a lot of people are going to get lost."