MONTROSE COUNTY – The fields of corn that consume hundreds of acres of the Western Slope are not just for eating — they are also for exploring.
Between Montrose and Olathe, along U.S. 50, visitors to the DeVries Fruit & Vegetable Farm’s Corn Maze can get lost among six miles of trails in a 20-acre corn maze.
"I think it turned out to be one of the best (mazes) we've done," designer and owner Randy Friend said. In his fifth year of opening the maze, Friend decided he'd show his loyalty to his neighboring towns through this year's design.
Visitors to the maze will find themselves working their way through a pirate (Olathe High School's mascot) and an Indian (Montrose’s mascot). With help from a map, visitors weave through the thick field of corn stalks, encountering dead ends and resting spots along the way, in about an hour's time.
"I've tried all different kinds of things over the years," Friend said. "What I've found best is planting two lines (of corn) on a row. It keeps it as thick as possible for the paths, but I can still have good corn, because if the plant is too think, the stalks don't produce well."
Friend, with help from neighboring Montrose firefighter Kevin Davis, conjures up a theme in the off season. Davis helps Friend sketch that design, which is then taken to Mesa Surveying in Montrose; with mathematical precision, the surveying company perfects the path. Friend then plants the corn. Prior to opening the maze each year in September, he spends hours roto-tilling the paths to make them smooth enough for customers.
The maze is now open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Starting in October, maze visitors can test their navigation skills in the dark, as the maze stays open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
It's not just exploring, however, that the DeVries Corn Maze provides.
Friend also has a 12-acre pumpkin patch that visitors can rummage to find just the right size and shape pumpkin for their fall festivities. That patch opened this week.
And, at the entrance to the maze, Devries’ fruit and vegetable stand is open with all the farm's in-season crops, such as winter squash and potatoes.
"We try to provide a whole farm experience," Friend said.
One of the farm's biggest events is the Olathe firefighter's annual Pumpkin Chunkin on Oct. 27.
The event includes several local teams competing for bragging rights and includes high-powered — and mostly homemade — cannons known for their carnage and mass destruction.
An air cannon can blast a pumpkin from up to 3,000 to 3,500 feet. Although the teams compete for distance, carnage is the big crowd pleaser.
Teams also compete to see how much ancillary destruction they can cause to trucks, cars and water tanks that sit in Friend's field some distance away.
After a day of excitement and explosions, event participants and spectators can carry the excitement into the night, as the corn maze becomes haunted.
All the proceeds of the event go to support the Olathe Volunteer Fire Department.
The farm can accommodate large groups and provides family packages for its maze and pumpkin patch. Maze entry passes are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for kids ages 3 to 12. The cost to pick a pumpkin of any size is $5.