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Brushton farmer offers horse-drawn sleigh rides, other old-fashioned winter fun

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BRUSHTON - Dashing through the snow in a one- (or two-) horse open sleigh isn’t just meant for Christmas or the catchy jingle that most have come to know by heart. It’s throughout the winter season in Brushton.

For the past 22 years, nestled on the vast open expanses of Kit Clark Road, Jim Gordon, co-owner of the Gordon Family Farm and Sawmill, has offered sleigh rides for the young and old, groups and couples through prepared trails in his neck of the woods.

“I’ve probably been doing it for over 30 years,” Mr. Gordon said, adding that he offered sleigh rides when his family lived in Vermont to “thousands” of those whose interest was piqued.

He said a big reason why he offers sleigh rides is because there’s not a lot of places people can go to enjoy a sleigh ride through the woods.

“I’ve been told that many, many times,” he said.

Mr. Gordon said he doesn’t always get locals either.

“We’ve had people from Ellenburg, De Kalb Junction,” he said of this past weekend. “At Christmas time we get them all over because people come with their relatives for Christmas. We had a couple from England that came because they were related to somebody here.”

Mr. Gordon said he thinks people enjoy sleigh rides because “it takes people back.”

“A lot of the elderly people really love to do it,” he said. “They love to have their kids and grandkids come to enjoy what they remember ... from their youth.”

Mr. Gordon also said that the ride is also “quite relaxing,” though some aren’t particularly thrilled at first.

“I think they were apprehensive, especially men, where they don’t think it’s a great idea,” he said. “Then they get in and say, ‘This is kind of nice.’”

Mr. Gordon said some years he has different trails he uses “to switch things up.”

Mr. Gordon said there are always a “wide variety of reactions” when going on a sleigh ride, but most people are interested in the horses.

“I think they like to know what the horses do other than this,” he said. “They like to know that they actually work in the woods and do a lot of the farm work.”

Mr. Gordon said the horses, Ken and Don, who pull the group sleigh, help to pull logs from the woods and were doing so Tuesday morning.

Ken and Don just started sleigh rides this year, according to Mr. Gordon. They work together as a team and pull carts of people through the woods.

This is also their first year pulling logs, he said.

Mr. Gordon also uses the horses for logging year-round.

His other horse, Lady, is used for couples passengers. She’s been working on the farm for the past four years.

Mr. Gordon said he tries to schedule rides “on Saturdays as much as possible.”

However, he said if he could fit it into his schedule, he would do it other days of the week.

Rides last between 45 minutes to an hour, round trip.

“It’s not an extremely long ride, but I feel it’s long enough,” he said.

The cost to ride during the day is $75 minimum, $100 at night.

“One person could go if they wanted to pay the $75,” Mr. Gordon said. “If they have a group, it doesn’t have to be that expensive [because it would be divided out].”

Participants are asked to dress warmly, as it can get chilly. Blankets are available.

Mr. Gordon said though he would like to have more sleigh-riders, he usually gets a few every week during the snowy months until rides come to an end about mid-March.

However, the most action is seen around Christmas, Valentine’s Day weekend and the February break from schools.

Sleigh rides are not the only old-fashioned winter activity Mr. Gordon offers on his farm.

A frozen pond offers opportunities for ice skating. And a newly built cabin will soon make it possible for couples to cuddle under a blanket on a cold winter’s night.

Mr. Gordon said there is usually an outdoor fire by the cabin or in another section of the woods where guests can warm themselves, roast some marshmallows and drink hot chocolate.

“On special occasions, like the Valentine’s Day weekend, we had a cupcake out there for everybody,” he said. “My wife [Brenda] makes the hot chocolate and it’s quite good.”

This Valentine’s Day weekend was the first time people were able to visit the new cabin and its ice rink.

“[Over Valentine’s Day weekend] we took the couples down to the cabin and dropped them off and came back and got the next couple and took them back and swapped them ... so they could spend half an hour in the cabin by themselves,” Mr. Gordon said.

The cabin is nearly complete.

Mr. Gordon said he all it needs is a sink, some cupboards and a counter top. Construction of the cabin began this fall.

This fall also marked the creation of the pond available for visitors to skate on.

The cabin even has a few skates available for use inside.

Mr. Gordon said there has recently been another addition to the cabin.

“We just put a bunk bed in just two weeks ago,” he said.

The bed is nearly complete with only one mattress remaining to placed on the top bunk, according to Mr. Gordon.

Sleigh-riders will soon be able to spend the night in the cabin, according to Mr. Gordon.

“We’re actually going for the adventurous type,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people who have said, ‘When you’re ready, we want to rent it for the night.’”

Though there is no set date for when the cabin will be rented out, Mr. Gordon said it will be soon.

Mr. Gordon said he eventually plans to build more cabins to rent out to sleigh-riders, but those plans aren’t firmly set.

The heated cabin is fully furnished and includes games for visitors to play.

Mr. Gordon also said there is an outhouse for riders to use behind the cabin.

Mr. Gordon said he has no plans for calling it quits with the sleigh rides any time in the near future.

“I’ll be doing it forever probably,” he said. “Until I’m dead.”

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