While some animals go into hibernation for the winter and some people settle down in front of their televisions or computers, others in Langlade County, the "County of Trails" embrace the call of the outdoors. One of the more popular, and incidentally, cheaper activities is cross country skiing. It can be done at a leisurely pace and as a family activity that is fun at all skill levels. Some people however seek the challenge of a race and there is no more challenging race in North America than the American Birkebeiner and its companion Korteloppet race held in Cable and Hayward, Wisconsin at the end of February.
It was with training for the "Birkie" in mind that, in 1968, a group of skiers coalesced around the plan of setting up a network of trails close to home. They obtained permission from the DNR to groom trails on some land that had been owned previously by two brothers, Art and Walter Gartzke. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser was held and some equipment purchased. together with an old bed spring, a homemade tracker, and a personal snowmobile a single loop trail at Rabe Creek about 10 miles east of Antigo was the start of what would become the Gartzke Trail system.
The club officially incorporated in 1991 with Evelyn Barnes, Rebecca Frisch, Stan Koss, Cindy Martin, and Marv Schmeiser serving as officers.
A warming shelter was built adjacent to the bridge crossing the flowage. It was erected by the Wisconsin Conservation Corps. The shelter was made possible through donations of time, money, and materials by club members and local businesses. When it burned down in 1993, the process was repeated to give us today's shelter.
The network of trails has been expanded over the years and now includes dedicated snow shoe trails as well. An early guide to cross county skiing in Wisconsin describes Gartzke Flowage as follows:
"Gartzke Flowage is marked but not groomed and rated for the beginner. It is about a mile in length and offers a nice trip that covers some open woods and heavily forest creek bottom with springs. The parking area is not plowed. shelter, water and toilets are not available." We've skied a long way since those days!