Spanish has given us several words to name features of our landscape. We start with one rooted in a lovely metaphor.
bolson – a flat arid valley surrounded by mountains (can drain into a shallow central lake)
[Spanish bolsa, 'purse, pouch'; ultimately traces back to Greek 'wineskin']
– Stephen Harrigan, The Gates of the Alamo
… extending from southern Oregon to western Texas, the [Southern Arizona] Basin and Range is an immense … region of north-south-trending, faulted mountains separated by wide, dry bolsons (basins of interior drainage).
– Randall J. Schaetzl, Sharon Anderson, Soils: Genesis and Geomorphology
bivouac – a temporary camp without tents or cover (verb: to stay in such a camp)
Here is another Spanish-loanward rooted in a metaphor.
sierra – a range of mountains having an irregular or jagged profile
[From from Spanish for 'saw'. The Latin root also gives us 'serrated'.]
Mountains along the California/Nevada border are often called the Sierra Mountains (rather than 'the Sierras'). Technically that's improper, since 'sierra' implies mountains.
– Cormac Mccarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West
llano – an open grassy plain, treeless or nearly so
– John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830
paramo – a high, bleak plateau or district, with stunted trees, and cold, damp atmosphere, as in the Andes
puna – 1. a high bleak plateau in the Peruvian Andes 2. difficulty of breathing due to thin atmosphere; mountain sickness
cuesta – a ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a cliff on the other; a gentle upward slope ending in a steep drop
[Spanish, from Latin costa, side]
– Arthur N. Strahler, Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy
arroyo – a deep and usually dry gully cut by an intermittent stream
– Summer Wood, Arroyo: A Novel
hogback – a long steep hill or mountain ridge
Overcoming my fear of interrupting your train of thought, Wordcrafter, I'd like to offer buckaroo, which obviously evolved from Spanish vaca (cow) and vaquero (cowherd)
Absolutely no problem, JT. By the way, vaquero has also come into English as a recognized word.
If you have $20 million to spend, today's post will give you a shopping tip.
cay – a small, low island of coral or sand
[Sp. cayo shoal, rock, barrier-reef]
Key (as in the Florida 'keys') is a variant of the same word.
– International Herald Tribune, France, May 25, 2006
Actually, a hogback describes a specific type of landform caused by tilting of rocks with a resistant layer. The ridge has a dip-slope (top of the resistant layer) and a steeper slope on the opposite side, where the underlying more easily eroded rocks are exposed. The ridge often has a sharp crest of the harder rock, which resembles the hair that sticks up on a wild hog's back. In fact, the name for a landform similar to a hogback (but with shallower dip) is another land-word loanword "cuesta" meaning hill in Spanish.
For a complete definition see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dip_slope