The Homecoming

In the mid 1960’s, Bill “Butch” Cull, a real estate developer in Sacramento, heard of an opportunity to purchase 40 acres of land just south of a yet-to-be-constructed dam for a new water reservoir near the Plumas National Forest. The valley would become Lake Davis, a small reservoir just outside the sleepy town of Portola. Like many Sierra Nevada cities, Portola’s heyday was actually after the height of the gold rush, providing timber during the railroad expansion west.

Over the next several summers, Bill and his wife Judi would load up their 3 sons, ranging in age from 7-14, and trek the 3+ hours from Sacramento to stay in a small shack on site while they plotted lot lines, cut in a driveway, flattened a building area on each one, installed underground utilities (both electric AND water/sewer, a very unusual feature at the time, especially in this area!), and paved the roads.

One of the streets near the top of the subdivision was named “Cull Ct” after the family, as a nod to the “Cull rocks” (named by the boys, in addition to their own individual boulders) that overlook the whole valley from the top of the hill. According to Uncle Kev, the rocks used to be visible from the bottom of the hill at Grizzly Rd – it’s since grown in a lot!

Cull Ct from above, June 2019. “Cull rocks” on right. Future Cull Castle on right!

By 1970, the project was completed, properties sold, and any official ties between the Cull family and the Crocker Mountain Estates was in name only. For the next 60 years, the “Portola property” was merely the backdrop of many family stories and reminisces.

In summer 2019, on the request of her dad Allen, the middle of the 3 boys, Lynda, her younger sister, and dad trekked up to the Cull rocks for the first time in years, and decided to make it an annual tradition again.

In the lead-up to the annual trip in 2020, which is around Father’s day and Dad’s birthday, Lynda was curious how much homes in Portola cost anyway… and saw 2 lots listed for sale online, with the official Cull Ct address, for what seemed dirt cheap in comparison to San Diego where she lived for the past decade, with husband Cris for the past 5.

Upon visiting the lots, the real estate agent mentioned that if we were interested in an already-constructed home, the house at the corner was currently being readied for sale, after being held onto by the wife of the late original builder/owner for the past decade and haphazardly rented out. The house that Lynda had enviously realized/lamented in 2019 has the best spot at the end of the court.

Immediately, the thought, “Oh? It would qualify for a regular mortgage…” (rather than a lot/construction loan).

Yeah, they’re removing some carpet right now and repainting to get it ready to list, so more or less blank slate. …Oh?

And it has a complete 1 bed/1 bath in-law suite on the bottom floor with its own separate entry and kitchen, meaning there’s actually 2 full kitchens (Lynda stays the heck out of the kitchen – Cris loves to cook).


And it comes with both of the lots next to it, just shy of 2 acres, and no risk of neighbors on the back since it’s national forest.


And, did I notice the trucks on the way up Grizzly Rd? That’s fiber optic internet being installed, and will be available at the house*. (It was a lot more work than originally implied…)


They’ll have to check, but last they discussed, the owner wanted less than half of what we would pay for a tiny condo in San Diego. As is, which is reasonable around Portola, especially in it’s largely unmaintained state.

All of this, on the actual Cull Ct. The very end of it, actually, flanked by a couple of rarely used picturesque vacation homes, and the Plumas National Forest. We could bring (arguably) the best spot on Cull Ct back into the Cull family again. We would be acccomplishing our goal of buying a home – in fact, the ideal retirement dream home that we would have built ourselves anyway; architecturally interesting, with (at the time) cutting edge, quality materials, with sustainability in mind. All for what seemed like next to nothing. It literally has my name on it already.

Did it matter that it was 600 miles away from our current home and careers? Nope. That Lynda hate the cold and it SNOWS here? Nope. That we aren’t particularly outdoor inclined, besides Lynda insisting she only needed a little patch of dirt for a garden in her future home? Nope.

We didn’t really put a lot of stock in fate, destiny, callings, whatever one wants to call it… until that June. The timing and coincidences just kept lining up from there. It all seems too good to be true, or like a fairytale…but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Maybe someone was putting their fingers on the scale somewhere out there to tip it in our favor. Papa did always cheat at cards, and knew how to grease some palms when necessary, after all.

Or maybe it was a long overdue trip to Mulege, Baja Calif, MX in 2018 and sprucing up Nana’s grave that put the intention out into the universe.

Or maybe it’s all just luck, coincidence, and good timing.

Regardless of how the road back to Cull Castle was paved, we aren’t ones to squander a life-changing opportunity when it presents itself, even if different than what we had planned for…and an opportunity more amazing than anything we could have hoped for seems to call for jumping in with both feet, and embracing it fully.

One year later, it certainly seems like we’ve made the right decision, and are delighted to have acquired even more of the original neighborhood in Dec 2021, with the addition of the Quail Cabin to the Cull Castle kingdom.

Last updated: Dec 14 2021

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