This weekend was Homecoming at Northwestern (a fact I would normally find completely irrelevant). The only reason it registered at all this year is that Tori helped organize a CA reunion on campus so she came down to spend Friday and Saturday nights at 802.
After her festivities ended she, Zoe, and I planned to head out for a fall-themed midwestern adventure.
The original plan was actually to go apple picking. However, a little internet researching lead us to discover that apple season is actually almost over and most of the pick-your-own orchards are actually just charging an exorbitant amount of money for a ride out to the orchard and the privilege of putting 5 or 6 apples selected out of a giant tub into a flimsy plastic bag. The orchards were all at least an hour and a half away to boot.
All was not lost however! We wracked our brains for other fun, fall-themed, adventures we could go on and we came up with something amazing: Corn mazes.
Midwestern transplants that we are, Zoe and I had never been to a corn maze before and Tori could not let this stand. A quick Yelp search turned up a promising farm in Waukegan called Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm.
Our course decided we headed out. It was a pretty easy drive (about 45 minutes north) and the scenery was beautiful. It was pretty overcast but not raining and all the leaves have started to turn brilliant shades of canary yellow and fire engine red. Once we started to see corn we knew we were getting close!
I was a little afraid the place might be swamped but there were only a handful of other families around. We could see the pumpkin patch ahead and some sort of farm area off in the back corner. We made a bee line for the corn maze and bought our tickets. We were shown a quick (and probably not highly accurate) map of the maze. This wasn’t just a maze, it was an educational scavenger hunt!
We would be learning about soybeans (about halfway through the maze we stopped to wonder why we weren’t learning about corn, but whatever). The first section of the maze wasn’t really a maze, it was an easy path in the shape of the slogan “We Are Family.” Throughout that first section there were 6 educational signs about soybeans for us to study.
When we got to the end of the “Y” we would enter the real maze, which was divided into 3 sections: 1-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
Hidden in each section of the maze were signs with questions on them about soybeans. The signs all had hole punches for our score card. Zoe was kind enough to repair one who’s hole punch had come unmoored.
There were also people scattered throughout who would be as helpful (or unhelpful) as we wanted with hints. We made a pact to tough it out. No hints for us.
We had a great time exploring the maze, taking turns choosing our path. It was a lot of fun to wander, trying to deduce the logic behind the sign placement (theoretically they were easiest to find in order – though that was not how our search algorithm seemed to work!). Though we repeatedly turned down offers of navigational assistance, we did ask someone to take our picture.
We kept trying to establish landmarks (“No, no, I’m sure I saw this strangely curled corn husk before!”) but discovered we all have decent senses of direction. Sign number 7 almost eluded us, but Tori spotted a flash of orange down a dead end branch and we prevailed.
Surprisingly we never ran into another guest, though we could occasionally hear other people through the corn stalks. The maze is actually open until 10pm most nights. Navigating it with a flashlight would be an interesting (and perhaps creepy) experience.
It took us about an hour to completely explore the maze (some sections more than once… or twice…). We had a blast!
Once we emerged victorious we went to get hot apple cider to warm our hands around. It was exactly what we needed. Contextually, that was the tastiest cider I’ve ever had. Cider obtained, we wandered over to the back corner and discovered a corral full of goats, sheep, an alpaca (named Lola), a donkey, and a donkey foal. There was also an impressively fluffed up Turkey who did not like us getting too close to his mate.
The best part was the goat kids. A very nice young man picked one up so we could pet her (all the kids had princess names!). She was very fuzzy and made the most adorable bleating sounds.
We forked over several dollars in quarters to feed them cheerios.
Tori made friends with the owner of the farm (Kroll himself!), who knew all the animals’ names (Oreo and Socks were adorable little goats) and seemed like a very nice gentleman.
Just as the sun was about to set the clouds cleared off, yielding a beautiful sunset that laced all the trees with gold.
We ended our visit with a trip to the pumpkin patch. Zoe and I picked out beautiful $10 pumpkins for carving next weekend. It was a tough decision because ALL the pumpkins were beautiful. I’ve never seen such attractive gourds all in one place!
We hauled our pumpkins out to the car in a little red wagon and loaded them up. We took the scenic route back and wiggled along Sheridan and Green Bay. We ended our evening at home with hot chocolate and Bailey’s.
All in all, a truly wonderful day!