Best Bouldering Gym 2019 | Black Rock Bouldering Gym | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Come for the bouldering, stay for the weights, yoga, wine, and massages. Dozens of routes that sprawl over the gym's two cavernous sections range from the beginner-friendly V-basic rating to the rip-skin-off-your fingers V8s and above. Build strength by scaling overhangs and gripping tiny, crimpy holds as you practice footwork and train your mind to "read" routes before you hop on the wall. Veteran-owned and -operated, Black Rock is staunchly a bouldering gym — leave your harnesses at home, folks — and embracing that identity distinguishes it from gyms that try to offer it all. A monthly membership will set you back $79, which pays off after four visits. Regularly set routes test your technique and push your mind and body to solve fresh puzzles. Meanwhile, Black Rock's open gym has all the weights, resistance cords, and other equipment you need to get stronger. Yoga classes are offered almost every night, so you can stretch out. Monthly offerings include ladies' bouldering night (it comes with wine) and back massages.

There are three main canals that provide paths for walking, jogging, or cycling, but Arizona Canal is the best. These waterways have been entertaining Phoenicians for decades, as well as delivering the life-sustaining water for homes and our remaining farms. We know two people who used to water-ski in the canals behind cars back in the day. Now, you'd be thrown in jail for doing that — plus you'd run over a jogger, most likely. The Arizona Canal cuts through the finest part of the empire known as metro Phoenix, passing through neighborhoods and commercial sections of east Phoenix and Scottsdale, all the way to the west Valley. The canal paths are flat, with surfaces of both dirt and asphalt, so the only drawback is the occasional street crossing — be careful on those. The clean water, which contains catfish and other aquatic life, can be mesmerizing for desert dwellers who know little but dust and cactus. It's one of our mandatory pleasures to jog along the canal; stare at the water and open spaces of backyards, parking lots, and what have you; and let the brain take a siesta while the heart and lungs pump away. It's pure, Phoenix-style bliss.

Twenty-five miles of nearly uninterrupted bicycle path. You heard right. That's a huge stretch of pavement without worrying about cars or 18-wheelers taking you out. True, there are often other obstacles to weave through, like pedestrians, roller-bladers, and the scourge of humankind, electric scooters. But they probably won't kill you, and if it's later at night or hot, or if you get lucky, you'll have nearly the whole trail system to yourself. Doing the math: The ride could be a 50-miler out-and-back if begun at one end. In reality, that might be difficult to do. But the beauty of this ride is you could live in south Phoenix, Tempe, south Scottsdale, or north Scottsdale and still access the trail easily for a long, no-car bike ride. There are no signs, and not even a single online map for this one. Here are the tricks (start from either end): Catch the west end of the Rio Salado bike path at about 19th Avenue and the south bank of the Salt River riverbed. Continue through the Tempe Beach Park, and connect to Scottsdale's Indian Bend Wash path by either taking the pedestrian bridge to the north side, or using the walkway on Rural Road. That path soon bends north and runs all the way to Shea Boulevard. You might want to pack a lunch.

Don't get us wrong: There are plenty of bike trails with beautiful scenery all over the Valley, but there's something about looping through Usery Pass that feels epic. Once you ride up the 1,000 feet of rolling hills inside this county park, you can see downtown Phoenix from over 30 miles away on a clear day. There is lush greenery along North Bush Highway, which runs parallel to the Salt River. You can take a selfie next to one of the oddly shaped saguaro cactuses along the road, Bike anywhere from 20 to 40 miles, but come prepared —occasional debris from the large pickups hauling boats can flatten your tire real fast.

Metro Phoenix straightaways can be mind-numbing for the motorcyclist, causing us to crave any kind of handlebar action more interesting than a U-turn. Motoring out on our favorite longer rides, like to Tortilla Flat or Prescott, involves about an hour of arrow-straight freeway riding from our central Valley homestead before hitting any twisties. Going to South Mountain's summit, the fun starts much sooner. Easily accessible from much of the Valley, the entrance to the 11,000-acre park can be found by simply driving south on Central Avenue toward South Mountain. Soon enough, you're putting your bike through some paces with some nice back-and-forth driving. Watch out for gravel on the road, and mind the speed limit. There's a YouTube video out there featuring a guy taking a dirt dive from missing a curve — you don't want to provide a sequel. The lower speed limit (25 mph, 15 around blind curves) and treacherous cliffs make this a fun place for riders who feel the need for safety more than speed. Take the road up to Dobbins Lookout, or all the way up to the TV towers. It's a great place for improving beginner motorcycle skills or chasing away the boredom of the street grid.

The unassuming North Mountain Park sits on the southern side of the North Mountain and Shaw Butte area, on the northern end of Sunnyslope. Set back just enough from the cars racing along North Seventh Street, this desert park is a respite from the hum and grit of one of the city's busiest streets. From it, at night, downtown Phoenix is a sight to behold. The park, which comes with picnic tables and grill areas, slopes gently upward at the base of North Mountain, giving nighttime visitors a clear view straight down Seventh toward the glow of downtown against the jagged backdrop of South Mountain. If you slip into the park before the gates close around sunset, a ranger is unlikely to kick you out (in our limited experience), and if you're feeling particularly adventurous one night, we suspect the evening views from the top of North Mountain would be even better than from down below.

Tucked back in the Madison area of uptown Phoenix, Granada Park is a quiet, green area ideal for a quick lunch away from your desk or for an afternoon on the grass. A fishing lagoon jam-packed with ducks and turtles occupies the center of the park, while the dramatic Piestewa Peak dominates the scenery. Picnic tables and grills help with planned outings, while trees and grass make for perfect plop-down spots with a blanket, a book, yourself, and maybe a dog. There's also a tennis court, a playground, and a multipurpose field for those in your picnic party who are interested. Overseen by the city of Phoenix, Granada Park is open daily.

Mycophiles, unite! For those who appreciate store-bought mushrooms but are always yearning for more, there's a very simple solution: Go find your own. Not sure where to go or how to look? Enter the Arizona Mushroom Society, an organization that runs forays, lectures, classes, and of course, mushroom-centric feasts around the state. During morel season, weekday and weekend excursions take members and their guests to remote and rugged areas like the Mogollon Rim, where recent fires and rains provide the perfect growing habitat for these meaty treasures. Workshops cover topics that are a mushroom-lover's dream, like cultivating oyster mushrooms. The society's longtime members and leaders collectively have a wealth of information to help amateurs identify their findings and (most importantly) determine what's safe to eat. Mycophiles are a friendly bunch, and chances are high that you'll make a friend or two when you join a foray. Annual membership costs $15, with varying extra costs for specific events.

Free seeds! Free seeds! On the first floor of the Burton Barr Library is a board tacked with small plastic baskets holding tiny manila packets of just a few seeds each — melons, dill, squash, grains, flowers, herbs, eggplant, beans, peppers, kale, tomatoes, tomatillos, and more. Patrons can "check out" up to three seed packets at a time but, of course, don't have to return them after three weeks. This seed library is free, and we're thrilled with the variety that the library offers home gardeners. Although patrons receive just a few seeds in each packet, this sparing distribution is actually far more sensible than the $1, $2, or $3 packets containing dozens of seeds, only a few of which are likely to be planted. Getting seeds from the library means you can plant a few pepper plants, a few tomato plants, or a few dill plants without having to spend money on seeds that will ultimately go to waste. There are 16 Phoenix Public Library locations with a seed library, and the program also has free workshops on watering, seed-saving, and vermicomposting.

ESPN shouting head Max Kellerman tried to diminish the accomplishments of the most beloved Cardinal, Larry Fitzgerald, when he suggested on First Take earlier this year that Fitz might only make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame "because of his longevity and willingness to keep playing despite not being an MVP-caliber player anymore." Stop it. Fitzgerald, who just turned 36, caught more than 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards in each of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons, all after turning 32. That's hardly playing out the string. Yeah, his numbers dipped last season with a struggling rookie at quarterback, but so did the entire team's. No. 11 ranks second in receiving yards (16,279) in NFL history, trailing only Jerry Rice. He's made the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 15-year career, despite playing with 19 different quarterbacks. With new coach Kliff Kingsbury bringing in a pass-first offense, there's no telling what kind of numbers Fitzgerald will put up this season. Nevertheless, we'll cut Kellerman some slack for appearing to be brain-dead. It might happen to us, too, if we had to listen to his TV partner, Stephen A. Smith, yapping for two hours every morning.

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