Sometimes, even in paradise, you forget things.
Like sunblock. Ice. A life jacket.
Sometimes paradise is best enjoyed with fresh coffee or a frosty Italian cream soda. Maybe some potato chips or pickles.
If paradise is the pristine Morphy Lake high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, earth and sky are about as close as they can be, but civilization is about as far as it can be when you need to make a grocery run.
Which is to say that if you are lucky enough to escape to this hidden gem in northern New Mexico but you forgot to bring toilet paper or aluminum foil, your only recourse until recently was to make the 28-mile trek to the Walmart Supercenter in Las Vegas or the 8-mile trip to the Allsup’s in Mora, both of which take precious time away from the beauty and the tranquillity and a trout or two at the lake.
This summer, though, two teenagers and their family came up with an idea to provide those bare necessities closer to the lake, earn money, learn how to run a business and spend time with each other – because, yes, these are teenagers who actually like to hang out with family.
The idea began – even before Sierra Trujillo, 17, and brother Cameron Trujillo, 16, were born – with their grandfather, Rumaldo Pino, who lives in Ledoux, a tiny community two miles from Morphy Lake.
“My grandpa loves the lake and always wanted to have a vending trailer that he could park nearby to sell necessities that people forget on their way to the lake,” Sierra says. “He just needed to find a good trailer.”
And what do you know? A vending trailer just happened to be parked in a field about a block away from his house. The trailer belonged to the Mora Little League but hadn’t been used in more than 10 years.
And what do you know? Sierra just happened to be looking to earn money to help pay for a used car to get to class at Volcano Vista High School, where she’ll be a senior this fall. Cameron, who will be a junior at the Albuquerque school, wanted to earn money to buy a weight bench.
“I like to work out,” he said. “I like bigger muscles.”
So in March, they worked out a plan with their parents to fulfill their grandfather’s dream while also fulfilling theirs by opening a little shop in the vending trailer.
“They thought about getting jobs working for someone else, then soon realized they would be spending most of their summer working and not spending time with their family, most importantly their grandparents, who live 2½ hours away from us,” mom Sonia Trujillo said. “They decided to work for themselves while spending every weekend with their grandparents and family.”
Trujillo came up with the shop’s name – Bare Necessities.
“I told them, this isn’t going to be a store with everything,” she said. “It’s going to have the bare necessities for people at the lake.”
Sierra and Cameron’s parents bought the vending trailer from the Mora Little League, and their grandfather dragged it, quite literally, to his house since all four wheels were flat and decrepit.
Getting the trailer cleaned up and ready for retail fell largely to Sierra and Cameron.
It was a daunting task. Old grease splattered on the interior walls was crusted over with dirt and cobwebs. Dead insects and mouse droppings peppered every crevice.
“The trailer was disgusting,” their mom said. “They had to completely gut the trailer to the studs.”
The process took about two months, then more time finishing paperwork and signage, setting up credit cards and Apple Pay to accept payment, stocking the trailer with items to sell.
On Memorial Day weekend, they hauled the trailer to a spot on family property right off the road to Morphy Lake and opened for business. They’ve been open almost every weekend since then.
“They sell snacks, drinks, fishing and camping supplies and the best Italian cream sodas,” their proud mother beams. “They added life vests at a ranger’s suggestion as vests are required on boats at the lake, and worms at several customers’ request.”
“We do pretty well,” Sierra said. “People seem to appreciate us there.”
Added Cameron: “It’s really taught me responsibility.”
Although responsibility for minding the store falls to him and Sierra, Bare Necessities is definitely a family affair. Every Friday evening after their pharmacist dad comes home from work, the family, which includes younger siblings ages 6 and 12, drive to Ledoux for the weekend.
Sierra and Cameron are up by 6 on weekend mornings to get the store ready to open by 7. The rest of the family goes fishing or boating with their grandfather, though Sierra and Cameron do take a break to also enjoy the lake while Mom mans the store.
They close up shop by 2 p.m. Sunday to head back to Albuquerque.
Sierra and Cameron say two things about running Bare Necessities that surprised them are the tips people leave them and the tip a few folks have imparted about making money without doing much work through GoFundMe.
The latter, they said, just isn’t right. They’d rather work for their money. The former, they think, is an indication that people like that work.
Because of the cost of buying and refurbishing the trailer, the Trujillos say they have yet to show a profit or raise enough to buy that car or that weight bench.
“We’re still working on it,” Sierra said.
But, oh, has it been a rich experience.
“After high school I plan to go to college and that will mean not having as much time as I do now to spend time with my family,” Sierra said. “So this summer we get to do that.”
That’s enough to make a mother’s heart sing.
“We are beyond blessed to have children who enjoy spending time with their family, especially now when kids are hooked to their phones,” Trujillo said. “We are thankful they are with us on the weekends and not out getting into trouble or doing drugs. It’s a huge responsibility to own your own business, and these kids work hard doing that. We’re really proud of them.”
That’s paradise indeed.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.