New owner seeks to tell world about Diamond R Resort
By DAVE REESE
A gentle breeze blows through the screen door of our small log cabin and the smell of fresh linen wafts through the air. Spotted Bear River, just outside the front door, offers up soft, gentle sounds of water tumbling over rocks.
A short walk through a small courtyard of cabins leads you to the main lodge, where hearty meals are served up on linen tablecloths and hunting and fishing stories are regaled in the peaked log bar and pool room. This is the Diamond R Resort in Spotted Bear, tucked away at the south end of Hungry Horse Reservoir at the confluence with the Spotted Bear River. And now with a new owner on board, the Diamond R is poised to take advantage of all that the end of the road at Spotted Bear has to offer: incredible scenery, hiking, horseback riding, great fishing and hunting for bear, mountain goat, mule deer and elk.
That, plus the fact that Spotted Bear is the gateway to the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness area. Lisa Schreier-Lee has managed the Diamond R for the last four years for her parents, after she moved out west from Pennsylvania. She purchased the Diamond R on Jan. 1, 2001, making her the last in a long list of owners over the past half century. The Diamond R has gone through many owners through the years, and over the last 20 or so years has fell into disuse, whether from lack of marketing, big game numbers declining or a change in tourists' tastes. It's not for lack of a beautiful location. This owner, however, is planning on doing things a bit differently up there. Marketing, for one, will become a higher priority for Schreier-Lee, who recently married Jason Lee, one of the owners of the nearby Wilderness Lodge. The other resort in the area is Spotted Bear Resort, owned by Kirk and Cathy Gentry of Kalispell.
The only other facility at Spotted Bear is Spotted Bear Ranger District, a sprawling compound of cabins that serves as the summer headquarters for the Forest Service. Schreier recently married Jason Lee, who owns the Wilderness Lodge with his father, Cameron, a burly, tough-as-nails man with a bearclaw necklace and booming voice. One of the patriarchs of Spotted Bear, Cameron Lee knows the draws and ridges of the South Fork like the back of his hand.
He, too, grew up there since his father, Eugene Lee, bought the Wilderness Lodge in 1969. Jason Lee followed closely in his father's footsteps. "I married one of the best — if not the best — guides in the South Fork," Lisa said. One of the challenges of operating a business at Spotted Bear means having to do without regular phone service. That's great for people who want to get away from it all, but it can put a crimp in taking reservations from guests or answering questions. (Schreier-Lee uses a satellite phone to connect with the outside world, however that is sometimes spotty. She's thinking of installing a cordless phone, which hooked up to an antenna might be able to reach a base in Hungry Horse.)
A spunky, fire-spirited woman, Schreier-Lee didn't shy away from doing everything that was required of her at the Diamond R, from running the horse operation to hauling firewood and doing general maintenance. Whether it's hay, propane or an auto part, it can sometimes take days to get materials into Spotted Bear. In the last four years running the Diamond R she's learned that "There is no such thing as overnight delivery." It took some time for the male-dominated clientele and guides to get used to having a female running one of the resorts at Spotted Bear. "They had a hard time getting used to it," Schreier-Lee said. "People were always stopping by asking where the guys were.
They were surprised when I told them I run the place." She did have experience with horses, however. Growing up in Pennsylvania she rode and trained hunter-jumpers. Conditions were a bit different than the rustic barns and corrals at Spotted Bear. "It's quite a change," she said. "Back east the stalls were so clean you could eat off the floor." After buying the Diamond R from her father, Schreier-Lee now has full control of making the resort what she's always wanted it to be: a place where anyone can show up, have a cup of coffee and chat, stay in a cabin or take a guided hunt. "I have big plans for this place, for it to be what it was meant to be," she said. "This place has so much potential, I can't believe many folks don't know what's up here at the end of the road."
Many of the Diamond R's customers have been coming there for years. One man makes h is appearance each year during hunting season. After along day, he'll show up, order dinner and a cup of coffee, and a bunk.
The Diamond R hired Augusta outfitter Larry Gharst to run the hunting side of the operation this year, while his wife, Lona, will run the kitchen and lodge. She never set out to buy the Diamond R, but after a few years running it, "It grows on you."