I have visited SOUTH FLORIDA six times in the last 40 years. The first time was in 1974 when we motored south in our VW camper over the Christmas holiday. Later we traveled in a 20 foot motorhome and this time we traveled in our Honda Element. In the past our focus was on campgrounds for lodging; this time it was more complicated. We did not plan ahead, so when we arrived in Florida we did not have any prearranged place to stay. Extended places to stay were all taken and we had to resort to hotels and motels where rooms were also in short supply. We did have short stays with Marilyn Hollis and Pat Glanz, which we greatly appreciate. We also camped in a tent for a short time. With Marilyn's help we were able to find a place in a 55+ community south of Naples. We have been here since March 1st. It is a nice area and is as natural as a place like this can be. The backyard of "our place" backs on to a manmade canal that nature has reclaimed and which attracts songbirds and wading birds. I have also heard the calls of the Red-shouldered Hawk and the Great Horned Owl during our stay here.
If you look at a night-time photo of Florida the coasts are lit up and the center is dark. 99% of the development in South Florida below Orlando is along the coasts. Looking south from I-4, which crosses the state at Orlando, the pattern of light resembles a horseshoe fitted over the state. Originally this whole area was a "sea of grass" with water flowing from Highlands County (Sebring area) to the Everglades and out to sea. Over the last 100 years people have drained, diked and developed the land, so the water no longer follows its natural flow. Route 41 crossing the state just north of the Everglades acts like a huge dike and only recently has work begun to allow water to flow normally. The "dry land" in central Florida is now dominated by farming, citrus groves, thousands of grazing beef cattle and the famous retirement "trailer parks".
I am an optimistic ecologist and I believe the natural areas of Florida will continue to thrive despite human abuse and neglect. Many people care about these places and are doing their part to make the ecosystems work for all the creatures who live here. In many ways South Florida is still the wildest area east of the Mississippi River. The Eastern Panther hangs on as a predator, alligators thrive, snakes, turtles and lizards abound and the many birds are doing OK. There are not many places where panther tracks and a cottonmouth eating a fish would be casually reported by a hiker. It is a wild and beautiful place surrounded by a city. You just never know what you may see next.
There are no mountains in South Florida, but there are ridges which are more than 50 feet high.
However the highest places in most of South Florida are landfills and road and bridge overpasses.
I believe the climate is getting warmer and the horseshoe shaped development imposed on this land will be drastically affected by a significant increase in sea level. The ecosystem here, on the other hand, was designed by climate change over the last 10,000 years and it will be able to adapt to what ever comes its way.
Humans, however, will have very few options. Move up or out. Over time the sea will most likely reclaim the land the cities are parked on and some of the inland areas will return to a more natural state as the rains of the wet season seek the natural flow south toward the Everglades.
So what is my real opinion of Florida after all these years? It is GREAT place to visit, but I would NOT want to live here.