At a whopping 18 feet above sea level, Solares Hill is said to be the highest point on Key West. In general, 18 feet is the highest point attributed to any of the Florida Keys, and the little known Windley Key is said to be the 18 feet that is highest. In an article about the Keys on Wikipedia it says “No area of the keys is more than 20 feet above sea level.”
There’s a humorous review of the Mariott Beachside Hotel in Key West, where someone who was staying in the Presidential Suite discusses the tainted view: apparently they stepped out onto their balcony to cast their gaze across the aquamarine Gulf waters only to spy the squat, looming hill that is the Stock Island Landfill.
This mound of garbage is at least 66 feet tall. Solares Hill and all the other 18-foot-high notables pale in comparison to this minor mountain hunched up on the Florida Keys. The Stock Island Landfill stopped receiving waste of any kind in 1993, otherwise it would dominate the Marriott’s view even more. The landfill retains the distinction of being the southernmost landfill in the US.
It’s too easy to point to this as yet another example of how we are hiding from Away. Why doesn’t the Stock Island Landfill count as a high place in the Florida Keys? Is it on the technicality that the landfill is a human-made feature and therefore shouldn’t be counted as part of the island’s topography?
Of course when Margaret and I visited Key West, the Stock Island Landfill was our primary stop. We pulled into the dusty parking lot in front of the landfill and got out of the car. Gazing up the steep sides of the grassy mound, it was, as it always is, a little shocking to realize how much garbage we produce. However, like all the landfills we’ve seen, it doesn’t remind you of garbage so much as a pastoral hill.
There’s a fence with barbed wire surrounding the landfill, which as far as I can tell is now owned by the US Navy. Trespassing is frowned upon, so we didn’t hike up to the top to get the best view in the Keys. But entrepreneurs take note: somebody could make millions selling walks up to the top of this pile.
We build a mountain of garbage but act like it doesn’t exist until we realize it’s blocking our view of Nature. The reality is Key West had so much garbage they made a mound three times as high as anywhere else in the Keys. In other words, we made so much garbage we outdated the island’s topography.