Doggo Hotel Up and Running

It has been a busy day for Team Talia. Titanium Talia and her dedicated father Tireless Tim tacked together a “gypsy dog yard” at Michael and Christine Stitt’s place up near the summit of Hatcher Pass in Willow, Alaska. Two local mushers, Marshall “The Donator” Cogdill and Jenny “The Giver” Evans who, along with the Stitts’ contribution from their dormant yard where, at one time, 50 dogs lived, provided sturdy housing to create the new Dog Central for Talia’s team. It all came together in fine Alaskan style. Snapped some pics around the place to give the feel of this snow-covered paradise. Next Sunday Talia goes to Cantwell, AK to begin her 500 mile training run. In the meantime the team is settling in nicely.

Bear on top of his new pad.
Doggos yelping their welcome to the new digs.
Windy in full winter regalia.

Hatcher Pass – Stitt Ranchero

    Christine Stitt helping Tim find tools in Michael’s fantastic shop. The day’s project is to create the “gypsy dog yard” from which Talia will train. In three days Talia leaves for a 500 mile expedition across the backbone of Alaska.
Windy the Arab-quarter horse mix. She is preggers. Due in April. The Stitts’ daughter Ruthan barrel races with Windy.

    Mama moose on Hatcher Pass road. Moments earlier she was on her knees on the road licking salt. Her calf was hiding just into the woods.

Welcome to Alaska

Tracker shows the Team in Alaska!!

Not wasting any time, they across the border and tomorrow will be hitching up the Team at their home away from home in Willow!

Go Team!

Superior Telegram Article – Community pulls for local musher

From Superior Telegram  

Maria Lockwood Talia Martens, 17, of Brule spends time with one of her sled dogs, Keisha, Thursday at the family farm. Martens, her father, uncle and 12 dogs are in the midst of a 3,100-mile trip to Willow, Alaska. She plans to race in the Junior Iditarod in February.

A team of athletes from the town of Brule is en route to making a dream come true.

Talia Martens, 17, aims to compete in the Junior Iditarod Feb. 24-25. Before she does, she’ll have connected with some big-name mushers and tested her mettle in the wilds of Alaska.

Monday, she hitched up for a 15-mile training run in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada at Streeper Kennels. She met sprint musher Bud Streeper and his father Terry, who paced her on snowmobile. The wind chill was minus 15.

“They have some awesome trails and they are great people who love dogs,” Martens said in a Facebook message.

The teen plans to train near Denali National Park with Iditarod veterans Jim Lanier and Gunnar Johnson, bunk with Christine Stitt, who raised four mushers, and tackle three different races — the Northern Lights Race Jan. 27 and Willow Junior Race Feb. 9-10 as well as the 150-mile Junior Iditarod.

“I’m very excited to see how she does,” said Johnson, Duluth city attorney. “No matter what, she’ll come out of this experience different and a much stronger person.”

“She will represent this area well.”

Thursday night, signs outside the Brule Cenex and Twin Gables Cafe wished the musher good luck. A mile away, gear was spread out all over the Martens home as they packed for the Friday morning departure.

“We’ve got a list of things to bring that’s about four or five pages long and it’s still growing because we’re still thinking, well what about if this happens,” said Martens’ mom, Janet. “First aid kits and fire extinguishers …”

That’s in addition to 1,500 pounds of Redpaw kibble, 500 pounds of ground beef, 600 dog booties, 12 dogs and Martens’ new sled, built by Chris Evavold of Douglas County.

“You wanna see it?” the teen asked proudly, stepping into the trailer that will be home to her dogs for the next two months to point out the light, flexible sled.

There are challenges yet to come. Martens is the sole Midwest musher competing in the Junior Iditarod. All but three hail from Alaska.

“I’m impressed by her determination and her bravery to take this on,” Johnson said, but there’s no guarantee she’ll be successful.

The terrain is beautiful but rough, weather can be wild and the competition is intense, he said. Martens is sure to encounter moose and other wild animals. This race kicks it up a notch from her past competitions.

“It’s like the difference between a 5K and Grandma’s Marathon,” Johnson said, it can be something you race, or something you survive.

The teen’s determination hasn’t wavered, whether that meant completing schoolwork over the summer to prepare for the trip or taking the dogs on runs three or four times a week in the bitter cold.

“I’m always dressed for it so I’m never cold,” Martens said. “But it’s hard to get myself motivated to get all these clothes on and hook up everybody and run for six hours and then come back.”

That drive, and a veritable village of support, has brought her to this point.

Family backing was never in question for the Brule teen, who has been competing in dog sled races since the age of 8. Her father Tim and uncle Mike Savage are in the process of driving the team 3,100 miles to Willow, Alaska.

Martens’ mom will fly up to spend the week before the race with her, one of a rotating group of chaperones who will keep the teen company as she trains. One aunt crafted leather cases for the trail axes; another took on the role as photographer; grandma Phoebe helped pack.

Fellow mushers have offered Martens training, friendship and advice. The community’s response, however, came as a shock.

People flocked to her first fundraiser, a waffle breakfast at Mission Covenant Church in Poplar. Local businesses and individuals stepped up to lend a hand.

“It’s amazing. I should show you this,” said Janet Martens, unrolling a canvas taller than herself. “This is a poster I had made for her to put up at the races. These are all the sponsors and people who’ve helped her.”

Talia Martens said she was very grateful for them all.

“I wouldn’t be doing this without their support,” the teen said.

Johnson intends to track her race progress online in real time via satellite GPS at The same technology helped family and friends watch his progress during last year’s Iditarod.

At one point, he spent 18 hours on the ice of the Bering Sea when his dogs shut down.

“Lots of people were with me that night,” Johnson said.

The Junior Iditarod takes days and tracking it from the comfort of a warm home, Johnson said, is a lot of fun.

The Brule team is already sending back reports from the road, from the price of gas and a map of their progress to pictures of the dogs stretching their legs. Follow their adventure at or Talia’s Team on Facebook.

“I think a lot of people will be pulling for her,” Johnson said.

Streeper Haven

Fort Nelson, BC is about halfway. Billeted at Terry & Debbie Streeper’s lovely home. Such fantastic hosts. Debbie spread three fantastic meals out while Terry taught three concurrent seminars on dogs and mushing based on his 40 years of experience. Son Bud is preparing to go to Wyoming for races there. Handlers Alex from Copenhagen and Suzanne from northern France helped and showed me a few pooper-scooper tricks. Alex looks like a movie star, Dolph Lundren I believe. Suzanne looks like Tina Fey. Barrel chested Terry looks like a wizened grizzly. The Streepers say the team looks real good. They’re impressed with Talia’s dog care. It is snowing here in BC now. Talia took the team out for a cold 16 mile jaunt with Terry showing the way on an Arctic Cat sled. Tim took up the rear on a Scandia. The dogs were raring to go and looked up for more upon their return. After hydrating them (Note use of musher lingo here.) boxing them and lunch we bid a sad farewell to these most hospitable folks and headed for the mountains of the Northern Rockies.

Day 3 – The Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson

Day 3 and the Team is in British Columbia on the Alaska Highway Northbound!

Another over 500 miles and the Team is Northbound on the Trail to Alaska! As they move North, they will be losing daylight rapidly, so more driving in the dark as part of the day. No real word from them, but tonight they are in the hospitality of Mushing Fame, Terry Streeper, World Champion sprint musher.

Should have a bit more tomorrow!
Go Team Talia!!

Day 2 Complete

Two days down the “trail” and Tim, Talia, and Mike are making great time on the trip to Alaska! Stopping regularly to feed, water, and “pee” break the Team makes for a long day. The border crossing was pretty uneventful and the border folks were impressed with the challenge ahead.

Tonight (Saturday) the Team is holed up at a hotel in Whitecourt, Alberta. Forgoing the Edmonton Mall and one of the largest Malls in the world, Team Talia opted for a few more miles down the road to make for Alaska. The total trip shows 3173 miles (Google Maps) with 1379 completed. Not quite half way, but a real good start to the journey ahead. This is the easy trail with the flatlands of Alberta. The wilds of the Yukon Territory Await!

Go Team Talia!!

Off they go!


Well after a flurry of last minute packing, the dogs, musher and chauffeurs hit the road at 9:00 AM.  We usually work well under pressure and that was the case last night.  Talia collected a large donation of harnesses, doggy jackets, booties, snaps and collars from Windigo, her beaver mitts from Celeste in Tripp,  Chris Evavold (sled maker at Black River Sleds) altered the sled bag, Heather at Idea Design (donated all our PR stuff) pulled the sponsor banner and sponsor decals hot off the press for Talia.  Phoebe sewed some furbutt ruffs for the dogs (as me about this later), Amy brought dinner, Joann took photos, Brandon changed the oil in the truck and finished the outriggers on the truck, Mike went shopping for diesel cans.  Maria Lockwood stopped by for an interview for the Evening Telegram. Talia had a wonderful day at school and they gave her a good luck announcement and shoot for the stars talk by the principal, Mark Carlson and Mrs. Kroll. Morgan scooped poop, and played with the dogs. Tim hauled lots of firewood and then stayed up all night packing. Whew! Then this morning he pulled the neighbors car outa the ditch.  I know I was on my feet all day doing something all the time, but it’s hard to summarize my activities.  Twin Gables Restaurant and the Cenex station put up Good Luck signs for Talia.  John Wallace of Bethel, Alaska (I love that town!) set up a travel tracking device on this site so we can watch them drive from the comfort of our home. Gunnar Johnson called to wish us safe travels too and they will meet up with him and Jim Lanier next week in Willow, Alaska. As a grand finale, 10 friends from Poplar Mission Covenant Church came over to pray for safe travel and wise choices.

I’m sorry if I missed anyone who helped us get outa Dodge in the Dodge. Speaking of missing someone, I already miss Talia, Tim, Mike, Austin, Bear, Bandit, Bark, Diesel, Janessa, Keisha, Moses, Oreo, Radar, Random, and Scrabble. Love you ALL!

Wow!  We are humbled by all the love, encouragement, and generosity of everyone who joined Talia’s dream in going to the Jr Iditarod.  This begins phase 6 of the journey.  I’ll fill you in on what the other phases are at the next update.

I’ll add few photos when I get that feature figured out.