Fuji-san, one of the most mystical, geographically diverse, and beautiful mountains in the world.
Next comes the part you won't believe: a group of students from Payson, Arizona conquered that mountain and watched the sun rise from its summit.
Ironically, the five to six-hour hike begins with a downhill trek, bringing up worries that we are on the wrong trail. Soon enough, though, our small group hit switchbacks, marking the beginning of the assent.
Dressed in ponchos and gradually chipping away at the mountain, our welcomed mist turned to heavy rain and whipping winds. Ever determined, we pressed on toward our goal of the 8th station hut where hot food and tea awaited us.
After a four hours of sleep, some of the group rose at 2 am to finish off the last, but longest, leg of the journey to the summit. Even in the dark, I could see where the trail led because of the headlamps making their way to the desired final destination of thousands.
A rush of excitement accompanied a sigh of relief as we topped out at the summit. Now, all we could do was watch as one of nature's most majestic sights unfolded in front of our eyes. I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven.
This hike was just one of many adventures our amazing group had in Japan, but it showed us how to challenge ourselves and embrace a new culture while in rough conditions. My words could never describe the beauty that we witnessed on top of that mountain, but I invite the Town of Payson to share in the pride of our accomplishment.