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Getting out of a corn maze without calling 911: My trip to Anderson Farms

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When I heard about the family in Massachusetts that called 911 because they couldn't find their way out of a corn maze, I couldn't help but feel a bit smug. The corn maze on which the family met their doomed fate is seven acres -- and the corn maze that I, fellow Westword writer Jef Otte, my friend Noah and an eight-year-old tackled this weekend at Anderson Farms occupies thirty acres. We didn't need any help, though, because we have astute senses of direction, cutthroat survival skills and this year no one smoked pot.

It made a big difference.

Last year, it took me and two friends two-and-a-half hours to get out of the Anderson Farms corn maze. At first we didn't mind because everything was "so beautiful, man." We had the complimentary map, but soon realized we couldn't understand what the lines meant. We spent twenty minutes perched on one of the watchtowers above the maze, mapping our escape, only to forget our plan as soon as we descended. Finally, we resorted to asking teenagers to lead us out, but they walked too fast. In the end, we cut through the corn to get out, breaking our eternal-native Boulderite promises to "leave only footsteps" as we barreled to the side of the maze, ripping corn stalks from the earth in a frenzied panic. We left certain that the maze was the hardest maze in the world.

This year things made a lot more sense.

I could pretend that bringing Noah helped -- he is, after all, a lieutenant in the Army and trained to navigate through mazes while under gunfire. But it turned out that bringing the eight-year-old was more useful...because then we couldn't smoke pot. Armed with our senses, our maps, good solid shoes (do not wear Birkenstocks in a corn maze), and a plan of action (do not get lost), we actually had an easy-ish time getting through the maze. Children are much better at the maze, a fact I've now found discouraging two years in a row. They run around, laughing (remember when you could run around for hours laughing and not get winded?), and they climb up and down the watchtowers with ease. Basically, they have the sheer endurance to learn the maze quickly. Their laughter seemed taunting at times, especially when we walked in a circle -- not one, but two times -- but if you ask any kid they'll usually tell you how to get where you need to go without judging you. According to the Anderson Farms website, maze designer Shawn Stolworthy uses a satellite and a computer mounted to his tractor to cut the maze. It only takes him a day to finish, but the result -- an intricate, annually-changing design -- seems friendlier than it actually is. Although much easier to navigate when functioning on all cylinders, the maze still takes about two hours to complete -- if you collect all eighteen checkpoints on your complimentary punch card. This year's maze even included a horse-drawn corn planter, enabling participants the opportunity to literally walk around in a horse's ass. After an hour or so, we got bored and decided to take the hayride to the pumpkin patch. So we called 911, which sent in a helicopter-evacuation team that lifted us out of the corn maze True Lies-style. We had to eat the corn to survive while waiting for our rescue. It was epic.

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