“Live from 15,000 feet,” I add. The moment is perfect. Someday, my daughter is going to sit down and watch it, and feel a connection that’s much deeper than any photo album I could create. Before the trip, I’d found a treasure trove of old Super 8 movies my great-grandfather had taken of his travels to the Grand Canyon, Italy, and Cuba. Watching them had made me feel closer to him, and I think about those grainy old movies now, and how I’m creating something that could have meaning for generations down the line.
Over the coming days, I capture more scenes—Anthony jumping icy streams, fog whipping through canyons like smoke from a wildfire—and I realize that filming the trip, rather than being a distraction, keeps me more engaged as we hike.
When we arrive at Machu Picchu, it’s crowded, of course, but the mob scene hardly matters. The ruins exude a quiet power that cuts through the milling tourists. And unlike most of the gawkers, we climb another 1,000 feet of vertical to the top of Mt. Machu Picchu. Up there, we have the Andes all to ourselves. And I record the final scenes for my movie.
Two months later, on Christmas Eve, I show the film to a gathering of 25 family members. When the moment at Chilipahua Pass plays, it has the effect I hoped for—everyone laughs a little, sighs a little, and even I get a little misty. For the last sequence, I’ve interspersed a series of clips that I shot in Peru with others that my great-grandfather filmed decades ago. Scenes from the present and the past jump back and forth, juxtaposing family members five generations apart.
I have no illusions that my film is going to win any awards. But I had a great time making it, and someday, maybe after Anthony and I are both gone, my daughter will gather with her extended family for a holiday, dig out the digital file, and see how she was a part of our Peruvian adventure. And how adventure is a part of our family.