A view from the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain in Frederick, Maryland. Mary Tablante/CityLab

If summer is for catching the perfect sunset, then autumn is about capturing that perfect fall moment, for which we’ll go to great lengths. We closely monitor foliage prediction maps, scoping out the ideal time to go leaf-peeping. We drive hundred of miles through scenic parkways flanked by lush forest, climate concerns be damned.

To get that sweeping view from the top, some of us hike up steep mountains—as my friends and I do every fall. With a car full of snacks, we drive two and a half hours to Old Rag Mountain in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. It’s popular this time of year, so much so that the private farm at the foot of the mountain serves as unofficial overflow parking. It costs $15 per vehicle, cash only. We chuckle every time at the sight of its elderly owner stuffing dollar bills into the bulging pockets of her sweater.

Linda Poon/CityLab

The 9-mile hike through Old Rag takes six hours, with rock scrambles testing the limits of our strength. At the top, we soak up our reward: Speckles of reds and brilliant oranges nestled among green tree tops. We take photos to say, “We made it!” (because that’s what you do nowadays), and angle our phones in just the right way so that they capture that perfect fall shot.

And yet, if you ask me what my perfect fall moment is, it’s not that. There is no photo of it, actually, but it is ingrained into my memory: I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s sedan, on our way home from the grocery store in the suburbs of Maryland. We drive through a winding, narrow roadway surrounded by trees, and as I look up from my phone I catch the sight of leaves drifting from those towering trees, many of which retain their warm autumnal colors into mid-November. Even though my dad is a slow driver, the moment lasts just seconds before we approach the turn into our neighborhood.

—Linda Poon

Lynne Sladky/AP

What we’re writing:

Are Instagram “museums” really museums? ¤ First Amsterdam. Then New York City. Now San Francisco is also banning cars. ¤ What the fall of WeWork could mean for NYC real estate. ¤ Brace yourselves; urban living is about to become even more expensive. ¤ We took a helicopter taxi, and it somehow took us longer to get home. ¤ There’s a greener way to bury your loved ones in Paris. ¤ The man who laid out his love for Los Angeles in maps. ¤ How a conservative city built a $132 million park. ¤

What we’re taking in:

Big hotels are finally getting into the buzzy micro-hotel game. (The Washington Post) ¤ The Orthodox Jews making a living on Amazon. (Buzzfeed) ¤ That time women dared to go biking. (Jalopnik) ¤ The “gray-washing” of San Francisco homes. (San Francisco Chronicle) ¤ A totally serious monument dedicated to NYC tourists taken by wolves. (Untapped Cities) ¤ Comedian Ali Wong’s guide to good Asian restaurants, because “Life is too short to be wasting meals on bad food.” (New York Magazine) ¤

View from the ground:

@injunplanna captures a wide-eyed face in Paris. @anney_looks_up spots a banner with a mischievous grin in Philadelphia. @therealdevinbrazier looked up to see smiling clouds in Toronto. @parduederek finds a realistic drawing of a woman in Lisbon.

Showcase your photos with the hashtag #citylabontheground and we'll feature it on CityLab’s Instagram page or pull them together for the next edition of Navigator.

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