I've been afraid of heights for a long time. In high school, when the band went to Chicago on tour, I could barely look out the window at the top of the Sears Tower. Last year when I saw Jason Mraz at the Xcel Center, I had to stay seated because we were in the front row of one of the upper levels, and I would get nasty vertigo if I were standing up.
I learned yesterday that steep hills get me, too. I was at the Omaha Wildlife Safari with my friends yesterday. It was really cool... until we got to the part where you get out of the car and walk around. (Sidebar: Timber wolves are much larger than I realized.) The map they gave us was weak. It just showed a dotted line for the trail, and it was not to scale. There was a map at the beginning of the trail that showed some parts as being "easy," "difficult," and "most difficult," but some of the colors had rubbed off of the map. We walked around to the wolf habitat first, then continued on. There was another map just before a fork in the trail, but the map didn't correctly illustrate the choices we had. None of the trails were labeled. So we picked one and started walking. We climb uphill for a while, and that was rather taxing on me because of how out of shape I am. And I was thirsty. But I kept going. We get to the peak of the hill and there's a small arrow telling us to make a left turn. Gillian scouts ahead and says it's pretty steep. But we really don't have another option other than turning back the way we came.
She wasn't kidding about the steepness. It had rained a few days earlier, so there was a lot of mud on the trail. Occasionally there was a wooden block in the trail to give the illusion of stairs, but some of them led to a two-foot drop - and for the top part of this path, there was no handrail. It was very steep and went on for what seemed to me like a significant distance. In reality it was probably only 50 yards or so.
I freaked out. I had to go on because there was no way to get up the hill after I had gone down halfway. I've never known fear like that, to be honest. I was convinced that I was going to slip on a patch of mud and tumble down the hill, hitting my head on the wood steps and collapse in a dead pile at the bottom. When we reached a level part in the middle of the trail, I started crying. I wanted to sit down, but there weren't any benches, and the ground was still all muddy.
When we got back to the beginning of the trail with the map, we saw that the place we ended up was the area marked as "most difficult." They really need to label the trails when you get there, and put a warning out there about how steep it really is. We weren't trying to go to that path, and had we known, we would have taken a different trail to start with.
I always knew I was afraid of heights. I learned yesterday that what I was really afraid of was falling.