Silver Bowl campground is located in the Caribou Wilderness of Lassen National Forest outside of Lassen National Park. It is about 35 miles from Susanville and 30 miles from Chester. The last 6 miles of which will be on some pretty rough road, especially early in the season. There are cabins around Silver Lake and people tow boats up for the summer, so I'm sure as the season goes on the road gets easier. Chester is a great place to go for supplies, the Holiday food market has a everything you would need. Best to fill up on gas there too if you decide you want to explore the area.
Campground Review: Even though the FS website https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lassen/recarea/?recid=11368 said it was open, the campground was not yet open for the season on May 26. In big snow years, it may not open until July. The adjacent Rocky Knoll campground had a gate and was closed. There are private cabins encircling Silver Lake, which is a short walk from the Silver Bowl campground, which I assume is why it had no gate. The information board was blank, and there was no payment envelopes ($12 a night during the season). Off to a rocky start to our Memorial Day weekend, we decided to make a loop of the campsite anyway. There was one other person there, in a camper who was there to fish. We jumped out to see if the bathroom was open, and thankfully one of the vault toilets was open. We decided we would stay for the night, since we were already here. So glad we made that decision, as we ended up staying three nights and it turned out to be a fantastic campground with lots of things to do during the day. Most of the sites are enormous. Site 8, where we stayed, could have easily been a 40 person group site and not felt crowded. There is a well pump for drinking water, however the pump arm wasn't on the well since the campground was closed. The Susan river is nearby for water if you have a water filer (which we did). There is trout fishing in the lakes close by, the Caribou Trailhead is close to the camp, which leads you into the Caribou Wilderness for backpacking or day hikes, and there is a network of fire/logging roads that you can use to explore other parts of the Caribou Wilderness. Dispersed camping is also allowed in the area, so if you drive up and the campgrounds are full, you are free to find a place to camp. You would need a campfire permit to operate stoves or have fires if you are dispersed camping, so check with the local ranger district for that. I would highly recommend this campground. Bring a fishing pole, a kayak to put on the lake, a hammock to put up in the trees surrounding the campsites, hiking shoes, or just do nothing. You can't really go wrong at Silver Bowl campground. 5 stars all the way.
Product Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products from time to time. At Silver Bowl campground, I tested the Midland Radio X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack - https://midlandusa.com/product/x-talker-t77vp5/ - aside from a couple issues, which I will detail later, they worked great. The radios come self contained in a hard plastic carrying case, with all the accessories included. I will let the Midland website above go into more details and technical specs for anyone interested. On to the review.
When hiking in remote areas without cell service, or wandering around lakes fishing, it is a good idea to have some type of communication in case an emergency arises, or you just want to keep in contact with others in your group. These radios do exactly that. I took one with me, and left the other in camp with my girlfriend, and was able to communicate with her easily. Before going, I had familiarized myself with the radios and there various abilities. There are 36 channels, security codes to keep communication private in high use areas, high/low power settings to extend batter life, an NOAA weather alert mode that scans 10 channels and provides weather alerts and updates for your area. The radios have very clear, crisp sound. I didn't get out of range once, probably about 3-4 miles apart at most on various hikes or while fishing. I charged them up before leaving and with light use on the high power setting over 3 days, the battery was still showing two bars. the included hands free headsets worked great. A wireless option would be nice, however that would increase the cost, and for ~ $100 retail, they offer great value. These would be great to use hunting, boating, off-roading, at festivals, etc. They served every purpose I needed them to on this trip, with two exceptions:
- The NOAA channels didn't work at the campsite, which is likely a function of where we were located. They have worked every time I used them before, and since. The remote location made it so the radios couldn't receive the signal from the NOAA stations. But, being in a remote location in the mountains is the exact spot I would need the weather alerts the most. Around town or places with cell reception, most of us would just default to checking weather on our phones. That is a big downside in my eyes.
- The advertised reception of 38 miles must only be able to be accomplished in a dead flat desert with no trees, or on open ocean. I tested them around town at various distances and without direct line of sight, the best I was able to get out of them was 10-12 miles. I know that trees, buildings, hills, valleys, all affect the line of sight and account for the lower numbers, but to me this is an under-promise/over-deliver situation where I would stay on the more conservative side of the mileage range and if people get more out of it, it is a pleasant surprise.
Overall the range is a small nitpick and I won't downgrade them too bad for that, however the lack of access to the NOAA weather alert stations in remote areas is a big issue for me. I would give them 3.75 stars. They worked great, feel like they will hold up well over time, and come in a case that holds all the accessories needed, so all you have to do it toss them in the car and not worry about forgetting chargers, ear pieces, etc. They will be a fixture in our camping gear going forward.