If there’s one essential experience of fall in northern Michigan, it’s getting lost in a corn maze. In Traverse City, Jacob’s Farm has hosted a 10 acre corn maze for a decade.
Wet corn stocks smack in the wind at the maze entrance.
But Brett Hood, the farm manager and maze master, says the windy and rainy conditions don't keeping people away.
The farm attracts thousands of tourists who are drawn to the area to see the fall colors. Brett says the maze has an elaborate theme that changes each year. It’s been Michigan themed. Last year was all about the coast guard. This year the theme is outer space.
"We have sort of a sunburst at the center of the maze," Brett says. "Then there is sort of an alien creature. Lots of swirls, like comets flying through the cosmos. We have Saturn with some rings."
Brett says it usually takes about an hour and a half for most people to walk the four to five mile path. He says there are two ways to tackle the maze. There’s a color map, which makes it easier to stay on track, and a black and white one, which is harder.
"So all my gaming friends came up with the idea that this is way more challenging," Brett says. "This can take three to four hours to really find all 18 stations. And to me, that’s way more fun."
Brett says the maze design technology gets better every year so they add more elaborate paths that make the maze more difficult. He says the design process takes all winter. When the corn has grown a few feet in the spring, a professional cutter creates the path.
"When he arrives, he has our map on his iPad," he says. "And he’ll unload his tractor and tiller. This year he started at 11 at night. And he doesn’t need to see where he’s going because he’s looking at the map on his device."
It’s this kind of detail that brings Kaden Phelps and Monica VanGillis to visit from Reed City. Kaden’s been to the maze several times and likes the challenge. But Monica was motivated to move quickly.
"We definitely used the color copy and cheated a little bit because with the rain was coming," Monica says.
But she says the weather didn’t ruin the experience.
“Oh it was super fun," Monica says. "It was actually kind of nice coming on a little bit crummy of a day because nobody else was in there. So we could go at our own pace. Screw around. You know laugh because we took a wrong turn.”
Brett says customers seem to enjoy themselves. He says they had over a thousand maze-goers last Saturday, many who stayed around for their turn at the apple slingshot and a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.