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Heartbreaking journal entries of Colorado boy who died living off grid with mum and aunt

Talon Vance, his mother Rebecca Vance, Trevala Jara, Christine Vance and Ms Jara’s husband are pictured days before the trio left for the Colorado wilderness  (The Gazette / Trevala Jara)
Talon Vance, his mother Rebecca Vance, Trevala Jara, Christine Vance and Ms Jara’s husband are pictured days before the trio left for the Colorado wilderness (The Gazette / Trevala Jara)

A Colorado boy who died while living off the grid in the Rocky Mountain wilderness nearly a year after he was whisked away by his mother and aunt over fears of pandemic conspiracy theories kept a journal that painted a chilling picture of his life in isolation.

The tattered notebook found next to the mummified remains of 13-year-old Talon Vance started in a cheerful tone, but soon took a dark turn as he chronicled his sadness of having to leave his friends and his mental breakdown at an Arby’s fast food restaurant.

Talon weighed less than 40 pounds when he was found dead in July 2023 outside of a tent where the bodies of his mother Rebecca “Becky” Vance, 42, and 41-year-old aunt, Christine Vance, 41, were found.

The trio left their Colorado home in 2022 to permanently live off the grid in a tent near Gold Creek Campground, about an hour’s drive from Gunnison, Colorado, in an attempt to “escape society.”

In the days before they left, Talon told his online Roblox gaming friends goodbye, which he wrote about in 24 pages in his journal, according to Tom Conover with Outside Magazine.

“NOOO COME BACK,” a gamer with the username Fluffy wrote.

“Please I will give anything for you to come back,” another wrote.

At one point during their trip, they stopped at Arby’s for food and Talon wrote about how he was having a mental breakdown because “nothing feels the same.”

“I also had a mini breakdown at Arby’s because nothing feels the same anymore [sad face],” he wrote.

He also wrote about going to the grocery store with his aunt, who let him pick out a treat.

“During my breakdown, she took us to Safeway and let me pick out candy of my choice! I was so sad, that nothing really sounded appealing to me anymore. So I picked out chocolate for mommy mostly, and then Aunty suggested fruit snacks for me, so I just said ‘OK.’”

Family members still reeling from their tragic outcome said they didn’t know their escape would be a permanent one.

Becky’s stepsister, Trevela Jara, told The Independent she couldn’t even bring herself to read the journal entries.

Talon’s half-sister, Emma, who provided copies of the journal entries for Conover, told him the pages smelled like smoke from a campfire, he said.

None of the three had outdoor survival experience, according to family members, but some of the entries revealed Talon’s mother had been trying to prepare him for the trip by encouraging him to learn survival skills, including how to tie knots.

“Square knot! Right over left, Left over right,” he wrote, ending the entry with a smiley face.

He also detailed how to tie a clove hitch, bowline, Japanese square lashing, and timber hitch, exclaiming: “Side note: I did the trucker’s hitch first try!!”

Just before the family left Colorado Springs, he wrote about having to leave his “stinky” cat Oreo behind.

“Oreo always plopped on our laps when we were on the couch,” he wrote. “On the 29th of July, Oreo plopped between me and mommy as we were practicing ropes and knots. During online school, I would work on the couch a lot of the time. Because of that, Oreo would plop on me. On the 29th of July, Oreo plopped on me for the last time.”

The cat was left behind with Trevela Jara before the trio left for their trip.

Ms Jara previously told The New York Times that her stepsister was so “discouraged with the state of the world” that she was set on living in a remote destination away from modern stressors.

“She went for good intentions,” she said. “She thought she was protecting her son and our sister, Christine, because she didn’t want them to get wrapped up in what the world was coming to in her eyes.”

The Covid-19 pandemic only intensified her uneasiness with the state of the world, Ms Jara added.

Becky’s sister Christine initially did not want to go, but ended up joining the mother-son duo “because she thought that if she was with them, they had a better chance of surviving.”

In July 2023, Gunnison County officials located three “heavily decomposed” bodies at the Rocky Mountain campsite after a hiker noticed one of the corpses, which turned out to be Talon. The sisters’ bodies were found inside the tent nearby.

Their shelter, later described by investigators as an “eighty-dollar Walmart tent,” was not warm enough for the harsh winter in the wilderness and they did not have the appropriate equipment to survive.

While no firearms or knives were found at the site, investigators did find a fishing rod, however, the lakes are frozen and inaccessible in winter. They also found a set of four fantasy-themed Choose Your Own Adventure books, a Bible, and a journal Becky kept that detailed plant identification and high-altitude foraging.

It is not known when exactly the trio died but an autopsy ruled that they died of malnutrition and hypothermia.