First, as to the time-honored subject of moss—not confusing real moss with the parasitic lichens that incrust rocks and trees. Moss favors that part of a tree that holds the most moisture; not necessarily the part that receives the most moisture, but the part that retains it longest. Consequently it grows more abundantly on the upper side of a leaning tree than on the under side, on rough bark than on smooth bark, on top of projecting burls rather than on the lower side, and in the forks of trees, and on their buttressed bases. These factors are, of course, independent of the points of the compass.
Does it follow, then, that exposure has nothing to do with the growth of moss? Not at all. It merely follows that a competent woodcraftsman, seeking a sign of direction from the moss on trees, would ignore leaning trees, uncommonly rough bark, bossy knots, forks of limbs, and the bases of tree trunks, just as he would give no heed to the growth on prostrate logs. He wrould single out for examination the straight shafted old trees of rather smooth bark, knowing that on them there would be fairly even lodgment for moisture all around, and that the wet would evaporate least from the north and northeast sides of the tree, as a general rule, and, consequently, that on those sides the moss would preponderate. He would expect to find such difference more pronoun :ed on the edge of thick forests than in their densely shaded interior. He would give special heed to the evidence of trees that were isolated enough to get direct sunlight throughout a good portion of the day, while those that were in the shade of cliffs or steep mountains so that they could only catch the sunbeams in the morning or the afternoon would be ruled out of court.
You see how much more swiftly and surely such a man would reach a decision than could one who tried to take into account all kinds and conditions of trees, regardless of surroundings, and how much less he would have to puzzle over contradictory evidence. Among a hundred trees he might only examine ten, but those ten would be more trustworthy for his purpose than their ninety neighbors. This is woodcraft—the genuine article—as distinguished from the mysterious and infallible "sixth sense" of direction that, I think, exists nowhere outside of Leatherstocking Tales.
A rule that holds good in the main, wherever I have had a chance to study it, is that the feathery tip, the topmost little branch, of a towering pine or hemlock, points toward the rising sun, that is to say, a little south of east. There are exceptions, of course, but I have generally found this to be the case in three-fourths of the trees examined, leaving out of consideration those growing in deep, narrow valleys, or on wind-swept crests. I do not know whether it is characteristic of all conifers, throughout their ranges; but I commend this peculiar phenomenon to travelers, for observation.