By Chuck Woodbury
If you’re like me and wish you could go to Mars, well, you’re in for a disappointment. It’s not going to happen —maybe for our grand kids.
Still, I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a time when I am able to view amazing, high definition photos of the Red Planet taken by our rovers. It’s not like being there, but it’s pretty darn close and convenient considering we don’t have to take a four-month spaceflight to get there.
There is one place here on Earth, close to home for we North Americans, where someone can feel very much like they’re on Mars, and that’s Death Valley National Park in Southern California. If you have seen photos of Mars, then you can see by my photo above that Death Valley offers a very similar landscape. And good news: you can breath the air!
Not all of Death Valley looks like this. The Furnace Creek oasis, only about ten miles from where I took this photo, is studded with palm trees. Water gushes from the ground, providing plenty of life support for plants and humans, too. There are even fish in Death Valley, which you can’t say about Mars. But don’t bring your fishing pole. These are just little fellows, maybe an inch or so long. They’re called Pupfish. They’re endangered so don’t try bringing one home.
There are several campgrounds at Furnace Creek. Sunset Campground is huge — just a big flat parking lot. But it can hold hundreds of RVs (no hookups). If the other two campgrounds are full (Furnace Creek and Texas Springs) you can always hole up there. You can walk from all three of the campgrounds to the Furnace Creek village with its Park Visitor Center, general store, cafe, bar and museums. Furnace Creek Campground, by the way, has hookup sites.
You should avoid Death Valley in the summer. A cool day would be 100. But it’s usually hotter.