North Mountain Park

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.

When some of us measure 5 feet, 10 inches and weigh 207 pounds, the doctor says, "You need to lose some weight." When Kyler Murray hit those numbers at the National Football League Combine earlier this year, the experts said it almost certainly meant that the diminutive quarterback was big enough for the Arizona Cardinals to make him the No. 1 pick in the draft. That also made Murray the first athlete ever to be drafted in the first round by both the NFL and Major League Baseball, forcing him to choose the Cardinals over the Oakland Athletics. Even though as we're writing this, Murray has only made two starts, he's our easy choice based on what he's already done, which includes winning the Heisman Trophy by passing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns in his only full season as a starter at the University of Oklahoma in 2018. We do have our concerns about Murray — not about his size, but about selecting him for this award. Our last two Best of Phoenix Male Athletes, David Johnson and Devin Booker, got hurt before the selection was even announced. Stay safe, little one.

Mesa native Julie Ertz now holds the record for world championships in the Ertz household. Her husband, Zach, won a Super Bowl as a tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, but she has two World Cup soccer titles on her wall, starring for the winning U.S. teams in 2015 and 2019. She began playing soccer as Julie Johnston, and she and her sister, Melanie, were standouts for Phoenix's nationally known Sereno Soccer Club. College and pro soccer led her to a spot on the national women's team, where Ertz is a capable offensive player, but her forte as a midfielder is defense; she led the United States to four shutouts in its seven World Cup matches, including a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, when Ertz totally shut down vaunted Dutch playmaker Daniëlle van de Donk.

Best Last Chance for a Sports Exec to Keep His Job

Steve Keim

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim's biggest mistakes may be the reason he still has a chance to remain employed. In 2018, Keim hired Steve Wilks as the team's head coach and traded up to select quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th pick of the first round of the NFL draft. Wilks was dismal, and Rosen never had a chance to succeed. Both are already gone, at considerable cost to the team, which finished 3-13 last season. You can't blame all that on the Wilks and Rosen decisions, however. Keim has made plenty of other errors in judgment. Many of the team's top draft picks were a disaster (where have you gone, Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Minter?), and the general manager left his team and new coach rudderless for five weeks last summer while serving a suspension for his extreme DUI conviction. But in the NFL, ineptitude pays: The Cardinals' poor performance earned them the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, which they used to select Heisman Trophy winner and human mistake eraser Kyler Murray. His talent may just make Keim look like a smart man again.

When your station's ratings are less than one-quarter of the other guy's, why not pull a Hamilton and not throw away your shot? (Sports fans: We're talking about Alexander Hamilton in the hit Broadway musical, not former Detroit guard Rip Hamilton.) That's what Fox Sports Radio 910 AM's Jody Oehler has been doing for the past year to his afternoon rival, John Gambadoro, the 2018 Best of Phoenix Best Sportscaster. Oehler has challenged the accuracy of some of Gambo's reporting on Twitter, noting that the 98.7 talker said the Cardinals wouldn't trade up to get Josh Rosen (they shouldn't have, but we checked it out, and Gambo reported that if the Cards did move up it would be to get Rosen). Oehler also said that Gambo was wrong about the 2018 NBA draft, when the Suns moved up to take Mikal Bridges (smart move). Gambo, for his part, has ignored Oehler's tweets, but at least Oehler's tactics got him some space on The Athletic, a national sports website. If he really wants to make up some ground in drive time, though, maybe Oehler should either try a Jersey accent or work his "sawrces" as hard as the transplanted East Coaster does.

Listeners got a double bonus when Arizona Sports 98.7 FM expanded the Bickley & Marotta show from two to four hours last year. Not only did we get more time with this lively midday duo (and less with the B-Train, Bertrand Berry), but we also got free access to Dan Bickley's insightful column, which had been hidden for years behind the azcentral.com paywall and on the pages of the Arizona Republic. (We will admit his nasal voice is best suited for print.) Part of what makes Bickley and Marotta so successful is that they don't need to talk about successful sports teams to keep their audiences engaged. They are adept at entertaining us with lengthy discussions on celebrities, rock bands, and movies. What other sportscasting team can go mano a mano reciting lines from Caddyshack? Certainly, we need a few laughs after the way our pro sports teams have been performing — like rat farts.

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