December 23, 1951 – February 7, 2007
Marvin “Lee” Carlbom was born to Lloyd and Edna Carlbom in Conrad, Montana in 1951. In 1982, Lee came to the Sun Canyon Lodge to fix the beer coolers and quickly became enchanted. He came home and announced to his wife Sue that he was buying a hunting and fishing lodge located along the Rocky Mountain Front. The following year, Lee took over Sun Canyon Lodge’s operation, marking the start of a 22-year run in the outfitting business.
In the beginning, the business needed serious work. Lee was short on packing experience, but long on enthusiasm for the task before him. He set out learning how to run pack strings through trial and error and ended up operating three backcountry camps in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. His children Josh and Heidi joined him on packing trips when they were 9 and 12 years old, and Josh always grumbled about returning to school in August. He wanted to be back in the woods with his dad. Lee’s legacy lives on in the determined work ethic shared by both Josh and Heidi.
Lee possessed a stubborn optimism that made him a force to be reckoned with. He didn’t like to say no, and he always found a way to get things done. Even the wildfires of ’88 didn’t stop him despite having to close his lodge, café, rental cabins and backcountry camps. He secured a loan through the Small Business Association and pulled through to start another season.
In the summers, he would offer trail rides and guided fishing trips as well as a shuttle service on the Gibson Reservoir. Outfitting and hospitality were Lee’s calling. Whether it was a 6-year-old boy landing his first fish, or a husband and wife team setting out on a remote backcountry adventure, he had a way of making his clients’ dreams his own.
Bungalow Mountain in the Bob Marshall Wildernes was one of Lee’s favorite spots, as it offered an expansive view of the area he ranged on horseback and foot. Another was the North Fork of the Sun River, where Lee liked to stalk elk, deer, and black bears.
A self-sufficient man skilled with his hands, Lee took pride in working for himself and kept many irons in the fire. He was always ready to lend a hand to neighbors who needed help with fix-it projects ranging from wiring to plumbing. He was 5-foot-10, but you’d swear he was 6-foot-6 when he left the room—such was the force of his bombastic personality.
Lee was always at the ready with a story. A salesman and people person at heart, he was known as a man who could sell ice to Eskimos. He was passionate about sharing his way of life with others and if he had his way, he wouldn’t have charged a dime to share his corner of paradise. Everyone was a friend. Sue recalls she couldn’t let him tend bar, or they’d never collect a dollar for a drink he poured.
Lee kept tabs on the Forest Service and was active in MOGA from the mid-80s to mid-90s. He saw MOGA as an organization vital to the success of its members’ businesses. For several years, he served as the Region 4 representative.
When Lee was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, the doctors gave him three months to live. Lee was so stubborn that he lived for another 10 years. In 2007, he lost his battle with cancer. The family outfitting legacy lives on in his son Josh and daughter-in-law Niki, who have taken over the lodge and outfitting business and run it expertly.
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