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Finding yourself lost in the cornfield

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We've been there twice. Both times on a whim. Leaving after a hurried dinner.

The mythical cornfield maze--the 12-acre cornfield maze down the windingest road in northern Orange County.

The first time we got so lost and turned around, the McKee's (it's their farm) sent out their dog and two boys with walkie-talkies to help us find our way out. They joked about how many people need the "emergency exit" on the northwest corner.

The second time we were smart. We took flashlights. Still, around sunset, close to 8 o'clock, we had to promise each other NOT to shake the corn stalks or make scary sounds. It gets freaky real fast in the middle of a dark cornfield, surrounded by eight-foot walls of whispering vegetation.

You think it's a just a walk in the park when you enter the first turn. At the first 30-yard straightaway, my daughter took off running as fast as she could, sprinting to the next fork. Once there, she paused, and we played voice tag for the next 20 minutes.

The maze curls, circles, and twists into itself. It dead-ends way too often. After a half-hour all the turns look familiar, but you know that couldn't be. There are still four checkpoints to find. The checkpoints, little waist high stations hidden in the maze, each have a "corn poem" and a special ticket stamp. Twelve acres is a lot of land to criss cross. The maze is deceptive, just corn and dirt, no frills, like those way-too-complicated, way-too-simple 500 piece jig saw puzzles where all the pieces look the same.

That's the beauty of the cornfield maze. It's all natural. No commercials. No slogans, no billboards. Deep in the middle, when we turn to each other and goes shhh, all we hear are the giant corn stalks, rustling (plotting our demise) and bending in the country breeze.

After an hour, we were staring at the sky often to get our bearings. In the dark, all we see are the bright lights of the far-off concession stand (homemade ice cream!) at the safe entrance (was that south west?) and the quiet crescent moon, grinning at the fun below. In the dark, we didn't run ahead, or separate, or talk about "signs", or joke about ANYTHING.

Well, that's not the whole truth, of course. I pretended my flashlight went dead and rattled a few corn stalks once or twice. And my daughter did totally shock me jumping out from behind one dark corner as we tried to find our way back.

Proud to have made it out on our own, we encounter Mrs. McKee and her dog. She was wondering about us, and her dog was most eager to have her evening romp with the maze herself.

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