Glossary of Hiking Terms
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Apache Leap is an escaprment overlooking Superior.
alluvial fan
alluvia, in the form of rocks and gravel washed down from a mountain, spread out in the shape of a fan at the base of the mountain.
Arizona Trail
This 800+ mile trail running south to north all the way across Arizona, from Mexico to Utah, is organized into 43 passages.
arroyo
a streambed with high, steep sides and a U-shaped cross section.
bail out
Climb down from the side of a mountain. Bailing out is possible when you aren’t cliffed out.
bajada
Coalescing alluvial fans form a smooth slope at the base of a mountain. When you hike across them, bajadas aren’t as smooth as they look.
blink
A comparator blinks back and forth between two pictures of the same part of the sky taken at different times. Stars stay put, but a planet hops back and forth.
boulder-scramble
Climb up and over boulders.
braid
The trail divides temporarily, then the parts come back together.
bushwhack
Whack the bushes so you can get through them, as is often necessary when you are hiking off trail. But stay on the trail, if there is one.
butt slide
It’s too steep to walk down, so you have to slide down as on a children’s playground. Control your speed, and avoid the cactus below.
cairn
a stack of three or more rocks, used as a route marker.
catclaw
Acacia greggii, a member of the acacia family found throughout the Sonoran Desert. The little thorns are sharp and shaped like a kitten’s claws.
cholla
cacti, genus Opuntia, having tubelike branches and long spines.
cliffed out
The cliff is too high and steep to climb down, so you’re going to have to find a way around it
contour
to make your way around a peak instead of climbing it. O.K. if the slope is reasonable and you have good footing.
escarpment
the edge of a major plateau. The Mogollon Rim in Arizona is the southern escarpment of the Colorado Plateau.
exploratory
a hike which the leader has never done before.
FR <number>
Forest Road <number>. Most of them are dirt roads, some very rough.
granite
intrusive igneous rock composed of coarse-grained feldspar, mica and quartz.
hoodoo
a vertical column of volcanic rock whose sides have eroded away. Hoodoos are common in the Superstition Mountains.
igneous rock
formed from molten rock, or magma, erupting from within the Earth. Examples include granite, rhyolite, basalt, obsidian, and tuff.
LED
Light-Emitting Diode, a highly efficient form of lighting.
lichen
a plant community of fungus and algae, growing on the surface of the rocks. Each color of lichen is a different species.
magma
molten rock within Earth’s interior. Flowing to the surface, it becomes the lava of a volcano.
metate
a round depression in rock, used for grinding grain.
Peak <number>
elevation, expressed as <number> of feet above sea level, on USGS maps. Some peaks which don’t have a name on the map are identified by elevation.
prickly pear
cacti, genus Opuntia, having flattened branches and edible fruit.
rhyolite
extrusive igneous rock composed of fine-grained feldspar, mica and quartz.
ridgeline
the highest route connecting peaks in a mountain range.
saddle
low place between two mountain peaks. The ground slopes up from the saddle toward each peak, down on the other two sides.
saguaro
the tall branched cactus native to Arizona and the Sonoran Desert.
scramble
to use hands and feet climbing up boulders. Wear gloves if you know the hike will involve boulder scrambling.
slickrock
a bare rock surface. Dry slickrock isn’t slick, but provides good footing if the slope is moderate.
Sonoran Desert
the most colorful of North American deserts, found mostly in Arizona and Sonora.
sweep
to be the last hiker in the group. The hike leader may appoint someone to sweep: one who knows the way, to make sure no hiker gets left behind.
switchback
The trail zigzags instead of going straight up the mountain. Never cut switchbacks: it hastens erosion of the trail.
tectonic plate
large plates that make up the Earth’s crust. They float on the Earth’s mantle, and collide to form mountains.
Teddy bear
the most prickly cactus of all, Opuntia bigelovi. Cute and furry from a distance. When the branches jump, hikers become unwilling participants in the plant’s propagation scheme.
tuff
volcanic ash that has solidified into rock.
USGS
United States Geological Survey, a branch of the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC.
Valley of the Sun
the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area.
wash
a streambed that is usually dry.