You can use nature to find your general direction.  Moss, puddles, snow melt patterns, even rings in a tree stump, can be used to help you determine your north and south direction of travel.

Using Moss and Puddles to Find Direction

Using moss on a tree to find directionUsing moss on a tree to find direction can work in some cases but it not truly accurate – sometimes moss grows completely around the tree trunk.  Moss prefers moisture and shade and in the right circumstances, it can be an indicator of direction.  In the Northern Hemisphere, moss growth will be more lush on the north-facing side of the tree while in the Southern Hemisphere, moss growth will be heavier on the southern side of the tree.

Similar to using the often incorrect moss trick, understand that puddles of water will lay longer in areas that do not receive as much sunlight.  In the Northern Hemisphere, puddles will typically stay longer on the northern side of trees or other objects,  In the Southern Hemisphere, puddles will more likely lay on the southern side of an object.

Using Tree Stumps to Find Direction

Felled trees can be used as directional indicators.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the growth rings in a trees trunk tend to be more widely spaced on the southern side of the tree – the side that gains more sunlight.  It works vice versa in the Southern Hemisphere.

Using Vegetation and Moisture Patters to Find Direction

Snow melting around a treeRecognizing the differences between vegetation and moisture patterns on north- and south-facing slopes can aid in determining direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, north-facing slopes receive less sun than south-facing slopes and are therefore cooler and damper. In the summer, north-facing slopes retain patches of snow. In the winter, trees and open areas on south-facing slopes and the southern side of boulders and large rocks are the first to lose their snow. The ground snowpack is also shallower due to the warming effects of the sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, all of these effects will be the opposite.

If you know the prevailing wind direction in your area, you can use wind or wind related clues to determine direction.  For instance, if the wind typically blows from the south in your area, look for ponds or stagnant water and notice which side the debris on the water’s surface has settled on.  It will settle on the opposite side of the wind direction.

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