Bernie Harberts is a filmmaker, author, adventurer and subject of an Emmy Award-winning TV program. He is also a speaker and creator of “The Lost Sea Expedition”, the award-winning documentary about traveling from Canada to Mexico with his mule Polly.
His upcoming book “Two Mules to Triumph” is about his 6-month mule voyage from North Carolina to Idaho
Bernie is married to Julia who blogs at ConsideringAnimals.com. His first hustle was selling mistletoe to his neighbors and he wishes he’d won more races as as a steeplechase jockey.
Bernie prides himself on tackling big trips in small bites. That means using simple equipment, asking for help along the way and not waiting until perfection to take off on a journey. His trips included:
- 1993: building and sailing an 18 1/2-foot sailboat “Garage Sail” (Sam Devlin “Winter Wren” design) down the Hudson River to Florida and on to the Bahamas
- 1998-2003: working and sailing his way alone around the world on his sailboat “Sea Bird” (Tom Colvin “Saugeen Witch” design)
- 2004-2005: riding 13 months with a mule named Woody and a pony named Maggie from Oriental, North Carolina to San Diego, California
- 2009-2010: traveling 395 days with his mule Polly from Canada to the Mexican border for the Rocky Mountain PBS/ Amazon Prime “Lost Sea Expedition” TV series
- 2011: pedaling 6 months around Tasmania on a $10 bike trying to avoid leaches
- 2011: traveling by mule cart across Newfoundland tracking down 4 photos on an album cover
- 2017: sailing from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, off Antarctica, where the wood ketch he was crewing on got a hole punched in the hull (which Bernie helped patch within sight of Ernest Shackleton’s grave before sailing on to South Africa)
- 2019: riding 7 months on 2 mules Brick and Cracker from Lenoir, North Carolina to Triumph, Idaho.
Voyaging Under Saddle
Bernie’s big love is taking long mule voyages through America. He’s a Long Rider and a member of the Long Rider’s Guild, the guild for anyone who’s taken a continuous saddle voyage of more than 1,000 miles.
Where is Home?
When he’s not out rambling by mule, boat or bike, home is Caldwell County in western Carolina. Julia and Bernie live in what she calls the “shoe box canyon”. Nature and topography are the box. The hay fields where their horses and mules graze are their front lawn. The mountains have their back, and the stars are their roof.
Their home is under 500 square feet which feels like plenty to Bernie after years of living in wagons, tipis, and tents. He and Julia heat with wood, wash with gravity water and make about as much electricity as they use with the solar panels on the roof of their cabin. You can read more about how they live right here.
Bernie and Julia live close to some great horse and mule-back riding. Sometimes they ride out their front gate and see where they end up.
North Carolina Roots
Bernie grew up in North Carolina and went to NC State University where he earned a degree in Wood and Paper Science. After a few years in the corporate world, he decided he’d rather commute with a mule than a Volvo.
In his thirties, he rode his mule Woody 13 months across America, capturing glimpses few have slowed to document. He wrote 2 books about that voyage which you can find in the RiverEarth.com General Store.
Since then he has logged thousands of miles more miles by mule and wagon. PBS North Carolina and “Our State” magazine joined Bernie and his mule Polly for one of these trips. That episode, “Mule Rider”, won an Emmy Award.
The “Lost Sea Expedition” series
Traveling with a single mule and a tiny wagon he built in a friend’s garage, Bernie spent 14 months traveling from Canada to Mexico across the Great Plains learning more about the ancient sea that once covered the Great Plains.
He filmed the whole voyage myself, a first-ever for a cross-country wagon voyage. Back home he edited that footage into the award-winning “Lost Sea Expedition” documentary. The 4-part series premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS (Colorado).