"Doing their thing" in Ault

Rebekkah (Becky) and Frank Johnson are living proof that match.com really does work.

“I’ve gotta meet this guy,” Becky said when she read Frank’s offbeat profile. Married for more than eight years now, the pair feels fortunate to have found each other.

She’s a painter and pastelist. He makes beautiful frames for her work. He’s a Renaissance man whose wildly-ranging interests and skills she supports and encourages. “We each do our own thing but we complement and support each other,” Becky says.

Between her expressive, mystical landscapes and his assorted handiwork, their 102-year-old white frame house on a corner near downtown Ault has evolved into a combination lodging, museum, art gallery and product-display area.

Frank’s solar lighted bird feeders in the form of hunting lodges or pagodas take their place alongside dangling prayer tassels, a rack filled with cowboy hats adorned with handmade colorful bands and special trekking boots he makes called rompers.

A diorama behind glass incorporating Native American artifacts owned by Frank’s grandfather and framed by a gnarled tree branch graces one wall of the main room. In another area, a vividly colored, three-dimensional mural by Becky covers an even larger space behind a floor lamp Frank made from one of his grandfather’s rifles.

Frank plays the old upright piano and conducts drumming circles using the huge drum he made from an old cottonwood stump, unusual because it has two separate playing surfaces.

This pair is a living breathing example of the “reuse, recycle” philosophy. Out their back door a delicate winding metal staircase salvaged from a building being torn down in Aspen, leads to a rooftop deck with a stunning mountain view.

A step or two into the backyard reveals an elaborate boudoir — a canopied queen-size bed with luxurious coverings and a large trumpet vine draping itself gracefully across the sleeping area. While it’s a little chilly for sleeping out these days, a case could be made that the roaring fire burning a few feet away just might make it possible.

Frank uses the fire to heat smooth round rocks which he transports to the nearby sweat lodge. He welcomes friends and visitors to a “secular” sweat lodge experience. And if they like it enough to want one of their own, he’ll build them one. He also has a portable version he uses on outdoor adventures.

His recent retirement after 39 years as a watershed scientist with the U.S. Forest Service has allowed him to pursue the creative, entrepreneurial side of his personality with increased passion. His business, Rocky Mountain Safaris: Landscape Travel (rockymtnsafari.com) exists more for his pleasure than for his profit.

He takes interested people on outdoor adventures, charging them only for the expenses he incurs. His list of offerings range from Pawnee Buttes and grassland tours to mountain campfires, dinner parties and sweat lodges. He has built four canoes with sails that he uses to guide week-long trips on Lake Powell for up to 12 people.

The Jacksons feel such great affection for the environment they have created in their home that they take pleasure in sharing it with others. They describe their place as pet and pot friendly with opportunities for sweat lodging, ping pong and horseshoes. Off the living room there’s a sleeping loft available for rent. (Share the bathroom) The outdoor bedroom is available May through October and a newly-remodeled guest room with its own private deck will soon be ready for occupancy.

When it’s not in use by bed and breakfast customers, the light-filled room does double-duty as Becky’s studio. Much of her subject matter is landscape and her preferred place to paint is outdoors, but that’s not always possible in Colorado. She seeks out a spot and when she finds one that has a special magic for her, she settles in to paint. “Plein-air painting has allowed me to be a quicker and more intuitive painter,” she says. A collection of her paintings can be seen online at rjackson.fineartssudioonline.com. She belongs to plein-air painters groups in Colorado and New Mexico and the Outdoor Painters Society. Her work was featured in plein-air exhibitions in Colorado in 2013 and 2015, and in 2014 she was part of the Colorado Governor’s Art Show where she sold three paintings. Two people from the East Coast have become collectors of her work.

Visitors to Colorado in search of a traditional adventure or lodging experience had better not apply but if they should be looking for something downright out-of-the-way unusual that they’ll be talking about for months to come, they should head for the little town of Ault on Colorado 14, a few miles east of Fort Collins.

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