In 2004, I hired a contractor to build my dream home located along a meandering creek in Tualatin, Oregon. He framed it during the torrential downpours typical to Oregon. He assured me all would be fine. However, after six months of moving into my house, all was not fine. We smelled mold. I thought certainly he would take care of it. And this is where I speed forward. After over a year of inspections and depositions and legal fees, no one took responsibility and I was forced to lock my door for the last time and walk away without reasonable compensation. Devastated, I asked, “Where is the integrity, where is the accountability?” And when I realized those values were diminishing in our society, I decided it was time to boost our moral compass and launched The Karma Institute, named after my mother, Karma Jean Cullimore Hughes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the seed beginning of what would eventually become our retreat center.
My mission for the past twenty years has been to educate, motivate, and inspire individuals to live by the principles of Good Karma. I produced “Good Karma Coins” and handed them out as business cards. I posted Good Karma Talks. I spoke to groups and gave workshops to children and adults. But my greatest desire was to own a retreat center where people could come and be inspired to live more honorably and kindly in our ever-changing world.
While vacationing in Nicaragua with friends and family in early 2018, I walked out onto the rocks in the pounding surf and raised my hands to the sky, calling upon the Universe to guide me on my next steps. Unexpectantly, the next day I received a text from a woman I had not met that asked if we could connect once I returned to California. Single and surprised, I responded and we bantered back and forth for a good part of the day until I randomly invited her to join us. To my amazement, she bought a ticket and I picked up this stranger six days later and we have never left each other’s side.
Trish and I found each other like so many people find magical experiences falling in their laps. We shared a vision for doing more for our world and collectively agreed launching a healing retreat center was where we wanted to take it. We weren’t sure how we were going to make it happen because we didn’t have the proper funds available to us. But we started looking at properties anyway. Within months, Trish’s dad fell ill and passed, surprisingly leaving her a sizable inheritance. Months later my mother passed and together our inheritance made it all possible.
For months we traveled up and down California looking at properties. Nothing seemed right for our retreat center. Then in August of 2018, we found a breath-taking RV campground with cabins and a year-round stream located in the Sierra Nevada Forest. We fell in love with the place and made an offer, despite there was no cell service or wifi available at the property. They accepted our offer. We were elated.
Finding our real Retreat Center
On a subsequent 30-minute trip back into Nevada City, we talked about needing to rent an office in town for internet service for our business. At that very moment, we passed a real estate sign that caught my attention, “Zoned Commercial”. I circled back around and got the number off the sign and called the agent. My first question was, “Does it have cell service and internet?” The answer was yes. We scheduled an appointment to view the property the next day.
Talk about neglected. This property, known fondly in the rural community of North San Juan as Willow Springs, was covered with ten feet of blackberries and many of the buildings looked like they should be bull-dozed to the ground. When inspecting under the kitchen sink, we discovered there was no floor and the water drained out onto the ground. The walls were 1/4″ paneling and there was no ceiling covering, just beams. Like the interiors, it didn’t appear that anyone had maintained the exterior of the buildings for ten plus years. When we concluded our tour and we climbed back into the car, Trish said, “I’m exhausted just looking at it.”
After sleeping on it for 2 nights, we made an offer on Willow Springs to have a very small office with a separate entrance for our business. We moved here and began living in the main residence, now affectionately called, The Lodge, and began to see the glory beneath the years of neglect. The birds and foxes who lived here, the orchards and rich garden soil, the cob wall, the funky barn and “pirate ship” all started to find a home in our hearts. About this time our long-running escrow on the campground had run into serious complications which ultimately could not be overcome. Seeing Willow Springs in a new light, we realized that THIS was the place where we were destined to build our retreat center. How did we not see it earlier? Divine Providence works in mysterious ways!
We began a much more extensive renovation of Willow Springs than we had ever intended. And it was EXTENSIVE. For two years, Trish and I labored 10-12 hours per day, seven days/week. Fortunately, we love to work and see the results of our efforts. To make matters even worse, we finally opened The Lodge in March of 2020, Covid hit, and we closed in March of 2020. Around that time, our neighbor approached us and asked if we were interested in buying his adjacent 14 acres with a greenhouse, a fixer-upper home and plenty of parking for our future events. It made sense in many ways to purchase this property to protect and enhance the Willow Springs Retreat Center and finally offer Trish and I a house to call our home. And so began another renovation project…
We believe we were brought together by Divine Guidance. I believe the Universe heard me loud and clear standing in the ocean that sunny evening in Nicaragua. We believe we were meant to have Willow Springs and the RV Campground was the means to get us here to discover it. We believe our life’s dream to bring joy and personal insight to groups young and old is real. The journey has not been easy. We have had our ups and downs, numerous challenges and many more still ahead. But what we do know is that this endeavor is our calling and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to share this special place called Willow Springs.
We hope your experience with us here is as inspiring as it has been for us.