AM HAD NEVER heard of the Land of Waffles until he saw a brochure in a rack at a rest stop off the Interstate. He was leisurely driving home from a vacation and had time for a side trip, so decided to check it out.
After thirty minutes on a two-lane state highway he saw the sign for the entrance on the right. “LAND OF WAFFLES, America’s best-kept secret.”
Sam parked, pocketed his camera, got out, and walked to the small log building with the sign “TOUR ENTRANCE” over the door.
Inside was a modest souvenir shop. A clerk greeted him, “Are you here for a tour? We have one leaving in just a few minutes.”
“Sure,” Sam said. He paid the fee and was directed through a door out the back, where a handful of fellow tourists were standing.
“This will be a one-hour tour over easy, wide trails, mostly deep woods in gentle terrain,” a guide explained. “We should see many waffles of just about every size and variety, as well as their several accoutrements. Don’t be surprised if after the tour you find you are quite hungry, accounting for the popularity of our daily dawn tour, with an all-you-can-eat breakfast included afterward. However please don’t eat or touch any of the waffles you see in the wild.”
The guide went on to say that the valley they were standing in was the only place on earth where waffles were found in nature, and that while some were rarer than others, waffles from every brand of waffle-maker, past and present, have been identified.
The guide then led the group over several yards of rather ordinary trail, stopping on a small bridge. The guide told everyone to look down in the creek bed below, where a number of different waffles were laying on flat stones near the narrow, bubbling stream. Most were round, a couple were square. All were baked to a perfect golden brown.
Someone asked the obvious question, how did the waffles get here, and the guide said no one knew— they always appeared while no one was looking, and not even hidden cameras could catch one arriving. He went on to compare them with crop circles— they just show up.
The trail led into an area of dense, old-growth forest. They rounded a bend and then stopped with a start— a huge round waffle, more than three feet in diameter and at least four inches thick, was laying on top of a giant stump just a couple yards off the trail. The enormous waffle almost entirely covered the oaken stump, all that remained of a centuries-old tree. Everyone just stood for a while and stared with amazement at the waffle.
Farther on was an area of brush and fallen trees where they were surrounded by waffles of all shapes and sizes, on the ground and sunning themselves on tree trunks. While most were normal size they ranged from smaller than a coin up to a couple feet round or square. The guide pointed out a couple scarce wheat waffles as well as a very rare square blueberry waffle. There was also an example of an unusual rectangular waffle that had been baked in a hard-to-find antique waffle iron that hadn’t been manufactured in nearly a hundred years.
At each of these stops Sam as well as a couple of the other tourists eagerly snapped photos.
For the next twenty or so minutes they continued along the trail, encountering more and different waffles, before arriving at Syrup Springs. Here two narrow rivulets of thick, brown syrup burst from a shallow, rocky ledge. “The one on the left is Log Cabin brand,” the guide said, “and the other is Aunt Jemima.”
It was logical that Syrup Springs would be followed shortly after by Butter Beach, a rich expanse of yellow leading down to the shore of a pond. “Here you are allowed to touch,” the guide said. A few of the tourists pressed their palms into the creamy substance. “It’s real butter of course,” the guide assured them.
“What would make this a super day,” the guide said, “is if we could run into some link sausage. But in all my years of tours I’ve only seen that maybe a dozen times.”
They had to settle instead for Pattie Point, a dark, natural rock formation that looked a little bit like a giant sausage pattie, followed by Bacon Back, a wavy, eroded surface several yards in length that suggested a large strip of fried bacon.
There was still the occasional waffle, but the guide stopped the group and prepared them for the final two features of the tour. “Just around the next bend,” he said, “you will see one of a pair of large, outdoor sculptures we had commissioned specially for the park. The first one is titled Knife, and further down the trail from that will be the second one, titled Fork.”
He said who the artist was but Sam didn’t catch it, the name was foreign-sounding and probably near impossible to spell. The guide added that the guy was famous in Europe, having public sculptures in several major cities there, and that the park had spent way more than they should have on the sculptures. “We had to up ticket prices just to cover it.”
They followed him around a clump of trees, beyond which was a clearing. In the middle of the open space, set vertically on a block of stone, blade pointing up, was a twenty-foot-high table knife. It was made of stainless steel and was starting to slightly discolor in spots, which broke the gloss of the replica. Other than that it was simply a big table knife.
From all the hype Sam had expected a bit more but liked the setting, so squeezed off a couple shots. One of the other tourists dutifully took a single picture. Sam was hoping for more out of Fork.
They walked a hundred yards along a gentle bend to the left and Fork came into view. The same scale as Knife, it was therefore a bit shorter, but mounted on an identical block and also vertical, tines up, and again made of stainless. Somewhat let down, Sam only took one shot of Fork. No one else bothered with a photo.
The guide told them that when they were erected it was expected that of the two sculptures Knife, as the taller and more forceful, would have been regarded as the stronger work. Yet Fork turned out to be the one hailed as a masterpiece by critics, ironically because it was so predictable after Knife, like the period after a sentence— as such it was a brilliant work of anti-art, certifying its companion too as such. He said that visitors tended to like Knife the best, while admitting that many didn’t think much of either one.
Here the guide thanked them for visiting Land of Waffles, encouraging them to tell their friends, family, and neighbors about the park.
The exit was through a much larger building than the souvenir-shop entrance. It was called “Breakfast Anytime” and was a large sit-down restaurant that was always open and served only breakfast, the menu including more than forty kinds of waffles.
Everyone in the group sat down and ordered. “This is how they get you,” someone said. Sam had the Golden-Yolk Deluxe Waffle topped with butter and real maple syrup, along with link sausages, hash-browns, homemade cinnamon applesauce, juice, and coffee. After shoveling it all down he got up, burped, and loosened his belt a notch. Then he paid his check and left.