This page provides an alphabetical listing of some of the basic hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, camping, and archaeological terms that one might encounter while preparing for an adventure in canyon country. The definitions on these pages are meant only as a beginning, a point from which to get familiar as quickly as possible with the jargon of the trail. Please do not consider these explanations as definitive nor comprehensive. There are outside resources listed and linked for more in-depth definitions.
Basaltic lave of low viscosity so that it flows easily and smoothly. Solidified flows are characterized by smooth, ropey, undulating surfaces.
Rock art relating to early cultures.
(More than 10,000 years ago to 6500 B.C.)
Small nomadic bands moved over large areas gathering wild plants and hunting big game, including mammoth and large bison, with stone spear points.
Referring to the early Stone Age, about 8,000 to 15,000 years ago.
The study of fossils.
A portion of a rock, usually flat, displaying either a single rock art image or an array of symbols.
A plant or animal deriving its nutrition from another organism.
Toasted; cooked quickly in a dry pan or open flame until browned.
Also known as desert varnish. A dark surface formed very slowly by weathering and microbial/chemical alterations.
An eroded bedrock surface that slopes away from the base of mountains in arid regions and is thinly or discontinuously covered by alluvium.
A mixture of shredded, dried meat and dried berries with an equal amount of beef fat. Seeds or meal may be included.
Lasting throughout the year (as in a stream).
A handheld stone used to grind food or other materials in a mortar hole.
Fossilized wood, formed when wood is buried and replaced by an equal volume of mineral matter.
Petroglyphs are a form of ancient rock art that was carved, pecked, or chiseled into the rock. Usually the markings are made in the veneer of dark rock varnish on the face of lighter-colored rock for good contrast.
The study of rocks.
Rare rock art figures that are both pecked and painted.
A system of writing that uses symbols based on simple pictures of objects instead of letters.
Pictographs are a form of ancient rock art that was painted on the surface of rock with natural pigments.
Fleece, used in summer sleeping bags.
A lava flow that has rounded or tube-like masses making up its surface as a result of having occurred underwater where each emerging surge of lava was rapidly cooled to create the distinct shapes.
Usually refers to meal made from the seeds of wild plants; the meal often being a mixture of seeds.
A vertical, cylindrical mass of igneous rock.
One of the oldest styles of rock art, typified by rows of .5 to .75 inch pits and long, .5 inch wide grooves deeply pecked, or ground, into the rocks, sometimes as deeply as .5 inch.
A climbing term describing the vertical distance between segments of the climb.
The soft, spongy, usually white tissue found in the center of a stem, leaf stalk, or root.
A room built partially underground and entered through a hole in the roof or by an entry room that slopes to the surface.
A deposit of heavy mineral particles (e.g., gold) that have weathered out of the bedrock and been concentrated mechanically, usually by the action of streams.
The lower part of a tortoise or turtle shell.
A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land. Sometimes called a table or tableland. See also Mesa.
A large, flat-surfaced nest built of sticks and similar material.
The flat, vegetation-free, lowermost area of a desert basin, where water gathers after a rain and evaporates. See also alkali flat.
A shallow, intermittent lake in an arid or semiarid region, covering or occupying a playa in the wet season but drying up in summer; an ephemeral lake that upon evaporation leaves a playa.
A pool at the bottom of a pouroff, often scoured deeply into the canyon bottom by powerful floodwaters plunging over a pouroff.
In sleeping bag fill, the long continuous fibers that are more durable than short-staples, but heavier and bulkier.
Of two or more colors.
Located at or toward the rear end of the body.
Water that is potable is clean and free from harmful chemicals and disease-carrying microbes.
Any plant that is boiled to be eaten.
A hole generally deeper than wide, worn into the solid rock at falls and strong rapids by sand, gravel, and stones being spun around by the force of the current. In desert country a pothole often collects water during rains and can contain a variety of small freshwater creatures. After rain they can be an important water source for the local wild animals. Care should be taken around potholes to not contaminate or unnecessarily waste the precious water. We try not to walk through them even when they are dry, knowing that the little critters are encapsulated in the dust, just waiting for the next rain storm. See also Tank, Tinaja, and Water Pocket.
The process by which a suspended or dissolved solid is separated out of a liquid. Also, rain or snow.
Adapted for grasping or wrapping around.
Before the arrival of Europeans to America. In the southwest, this means anytime before the Spaniards arrived in 1539 A.D.
Any fire ignited by management actions, when environmental conditions are favorable, to meet specific objectives. A written and approved prescribed fire plan must exist prior to ignition.
A prolonged set of mouthparts adapted for reaching into or piercing a food source.
The stone point attached to the end of a wooden shaft.
The period of time between the decline of the early Puebloan cultures in the mid-1400s to the mid-1500s.
Land owned or administered by an federal or state agency or any political subdivision of the state.
A stone building located on flat, open ground or on top of a hill (as opposed to being built into the side of a cliff). Spanish for "town."
Pueblo I people lived in both large and small communities, in houses made of wood and adobe or masonry. Dwelling arrangements included room blocks (connected rooms with common walls) and pit structures dug into the ground with vent shafts for air. Plain pottery and pottery with neck bands are associated with this time period, as well as some decorated black-on-white pottery and redware.
Pueblo II people began to gather in larger communities. Masonry construction was widely used in kivas and room blocks. Corrugated gray pots and black-on-white decorated pots were widespread.
Pueblo III people began to build large pueblos in addition to small villages, often located near the heads of canyons. Puebloans built alcove cliff dwellings and towers during this time. Corrugated gray and decorated black-on-white pottery was widespread. Near the end of the Pueblo III period, people left the area and migrated south, joining or establishing large pueblos in the Rio Grande, Hopi, Zuni, and Mogollon Rim areas of Arizona and New Mexico.
Pueblo IV communities concentrated in large villages near the Rio Grande River. Corrugated pottery was replaced by plainer utility pots. There was less black-on-white pottery and more red, orange, or yellow pottery.
Of or pertaining to the Pueblo culture, usually represented by permanent settlements (pueblos), farming, textile weaving, and pottery making.
The inactive stage of insects during which the larva transforms into the adult form, completing its metamorphosis.
The hardened cuticle of the last larval stage, within which a maggot forms a pupa and metamorphoses into an adult stage.
Generally used to refer to something that will evacuate the intestine.
Pyramid / Tepee Tent
This minimalist shelter typically consists of a rain fly that is supported by an upright center pole and staked out to create a tepee. Though the space-to-weight ratio is excellent, it is prone to condensation.