Exploring the Great Adirondack Corn Maze
“We’ve been here before.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, not at all.”
That’s how it goes in the Great Adirondack Corn Maze. But before we dive into the corn, let’s talk about what the Great Adirondack Corn Maze is. Every year since 2004, the good people at Tucker Farms in Gabriels have carved a complex image into 8 acres of their corn crop. It’s a beautiful scene where the sun shines off of the dark green leaves and the stalks gently dance against a backdrop of High Peaks. Some of our biggest mountains can be seen — Marcy, Algonquin, and Whiteface all decorate the jagged horizon — and the sky above is open and wide. Not so much in the maze. The well-defined-but-narrow passages twist and curve in every direction. There are intersections where several routes converge; there are long straightaways and hallways with lefts and rights forking off every 10 feet.
A wild moose chase
The Great Adirondack Corn Maze is not the kiddie maze at the local pumpkin farm, it’s the real deal. My wife Anna, our daughter Lucina, and I recently spent about two hours being tested by the maze’s leafy walls, and we only managed to complete about half of the challenge. Here’s how it works. Visitors are encouraged to memorize an aerial photo of the maze — this year it’s a moose catching a fish — then they’re given a blank map with numbers on it and set loose in the rows. The challenge is to find the eight mailboxes that correspond to the numbers. Each mailbox contains a piece of the map, which can be taped to the blank map. It's basically a big puzzle. Simple!
I’ve done mazes on paper, and I’ve even explored a computer-generated dungeon or two in my day, but I’ve never done a large corn maze like this. When Anna, Lucina, and I entered the maze we were greeted by a sign that simply read “His Way.” The arrow on it pointed toward the way we came, back to the entrance. After a few turns — two rights, a straight, and a left, I think — we saw another sign that read “His Way,” but this one pointed straight ahead. A clue, perhaps?
The three of us continued past the sign, with me totally convinced we were headed toward something groundbreaking, maybe our first mailbox. In no time at all I was left scratching my head when a sign that read “Her Way” appeared. A couple of bad decisions later and we were staring at the second “His Way” sign once again. At least I think we were. Fast forward: after we emerged from the corn maze later in the evening I talked to one of the Tuckers, who told me some of the signs have a doppelganger. This isn’t meant to be helpful, and it isn’t.
Our first mailbox!
It’s all in good fun, though. Back at the confusing sign, we let Lucina have a crawl break while we discussed our next move, which we agreed was to head in a totally different direction. After winding our way around, we emerged from the corn onto a dirt road at the back of the field. This was one of the many escape routes built into the maze. Back in the corn, we took a couple of turns and ran into a family who clued us in on the fact that we had just passed a mailbox. That brings me to…
Corn maze tip # 1: The black mailboxes are set back in the corn, which makes them tough to spot. Stay alert while you explore!
Using the piece of map we got from the mailbox, I could see a couple of possible paths to a neighboring mailbox. Sure enough, in less than five minutes we were taping our second piece of map to the brochure. Things were looking up.
Corn maze tip #2: The numbers on the blank map are a clue to the whereabouts of the corresponding mailbox. For example, if the number is near the perimeter of the maze, that’s where you’ll find your quarry.
The second tip is easier said than done, though! We overshot the mailbox (#7) that’s to the left of our first map piece, passing through two mailbox zones before finding our next one. There was a lot of zigging and zagging, but I could see the roof of a nearby house on the property, which helped us keep our bearings.
Corn maze tip #3: Use the landmarks to your advantage. There are a couple of buildings and some large trees just outside of the maze, and they can easily be identified on the map. We used those to find a couple of mailboxes. Is that cheating?
Corn maze tip #4: Adapt to your location. Sure, we were aiming for piece #7, but once we saw how close the roof of the house was getting we were already past #1, so we headed for the upper corner and soon found mailbox #5. If it sounds confusing, rest assured — it was.
We probably spent another 45 minutes in the maze after getting our third map piece, and we were able to find two more pieces before our hunger and thirst got the better of us. Anna and I agreed to return soon to complete the puzzle, and to expedite our departure I put Lucina on my shoulders and made like a rhinoceros for the exit — or maybe it was a triceratops, we’ll see if she’s into dinosaurs. Either way, we were off to the Shamrock for friends, food, and a couple of beers. We’ll surely conquer the Great Adirondack Corn Maze the next time we visit! And that leaves us with one last tip.
Corn maze tip #5: Come prepared! Anna regretted wearing flip flops and both of us wished we had a water bottle. The takeaway — dress comfortably and bring sustenance, because the maze will keep you busy for awhile!
Visiting the Great Adirondack Corn Maze
Leave downtown Saranac Lake heading west on Route 86, toward Paul Smiths. After 8 miles of scenic beauty, turn left left on Hobart Road in Gabriels. The corn maze and parking lot are a short way down on the right.
The Great Adirondack Corn Maze is open until the last weekend in October, Thursday through Sunday, from noon to dusk. To make things more challenging, flashlight nights are Friday and Saturday, from dusk to 10 p.m. The maze is $10 for adults and unaccompanied children, $8 for kids with adults, and free for kids under 4. Make note, they do not accept cards — it's cash or check only.
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