Trailside Talk: The View vs. The Babble

Trailside Talk: The View vs. The Babble

Mike Hembree

Story by Mike Hembree

If Great Smoky Mountains National Park ever allows me to build a cabin in the park, I will have a few big decisions to make. This is an event that is exceptionally unlikely to occur for me, or for you, but we can dream.

Of course, there will be the decision about which person (or persons) is going to loan me the money for this enterprise, but the bigger decision is this: streamside or with a view?

This dilemma has been out front for decades. Would the preference be sitting on the front porch near the top of a Smokies mountain, embracing the view every morning and evening? Or would it be a spot alongside one of the park’s rushing creeks, with the sound of the babbling brook encouraging sleep every night?

Complicating this exercise is the fact that both choices result in a plethora of other choices, for there are so many splendid views and wonderfully pleasant waterways in the park that picking from them would be yet another difficult experience. However, it is one that, given the opportunity, I could be convinced to participate in.

Carter Shields Cabin
Historic Carter Shields Cabin in a Great Smoky Mountains fall. Photo courtesy of Gary Wilson.

Near the top of the view rankings, of course, would be that giant of the Smokies, Mount Le Conte, where views from Cliff Top and Myrtle Point are legendary, particularly when the weather is right. First-timers to the Le Conte summit marvel at sunrises and sunsets from these spots, and it is not unusual for dozens of LeConte Lodge overnighters to hike out morning and evening. If I’m to have a cabin in one of these spots, these people will need to be a little quieter.

Andrews Bald near Clingmans Dome offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, as does Newfound Gap. Chimney Tops provides a long-range look at the south face of Mount Le Conte and, to the west, mountain after mountain marching in a line into the distance. Rich Mountain Road north of Cades Cove has excellent views of the cove below, particularly dressed in the colors of autumn.

Creekside? The first choice of many availabilities might be in the park’s Greenbrier section, where Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River dashes toward the park exit in a wild and varied display, a near-perfect example of a clear mountain stream. Ramsay Cascades would be a prime location.

Cataloochee Creek in the Cataloochee Valley also would be a fine choice, with the added bonus of the occasional elk roaming by. Cosby Creek offers lovely cascades, any of which would look wonderful out my front door. And there’s the Little River Road corridor, which offers Laurel Falls, the Sinks, and any number of interesting rushing-water displays along the road itself.


Ah, so many choices, such a wonderful slice of nature. It’s perhaps a good thing I’ll never have to make this selection. I would be confused beyond my normal state of confusion.

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist and the author of 14 books. He has visited 26 national parks and hopes to add many more to that list.

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