3 Confirmed Dead After Attempting Off-Grid Living

Last summer, mother-of-three Rebecca Vance went to the Colorado Rocky Mountains to live independently the previous summer. Trevala Jara, her stepsister, heard her discuss her desire to live off the land and away from contemporary America’s politics, media, and diseases. Her choice, however, ended up being deadly. 

The deaths of Rebecca Vance, her son, age 14, and their sister, Christine Vance, age 41, were discovered in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado earlier this month. More than a week after the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office announced the bodies had been found near Gold Creek Campground, the coroner released his findings. The case had captured national attention as authorities worked to find out the victims’ identities and determine why they tried living off the grid, exposing themselves to a deadly winter.

After becoming “discouraged with the state of the world” in recent years, the sisters left their home in California in July to settle down in the wilderness of western Colorado, close to the Gold Creek Campground. They informed Ms. Jara that they were going “off the grid” but didn’t specify where they were heading.

The family of three had set up camp for the winter, but they had to burn dry wood to keep warm. Mr. Barnes speculates that they perished in the cold weather. They would go to the bathroom beside a tree just a few feet from their tent, which indicates that they were having trouble adjusting to the cold. The sisters and the adolescent may have died of starvation since they subsisted only on canned soup and other processed foods.

They camped about an hour from Gunnison, a little town in nowhere. On July 9, shortly before 5 p.m., a hiker discovered the corpse of one of the three family members; the following day, officials found the other two dead. They were so decayed that identification took a long time, if at all. They had just one box of ramen noodles to eat at the shelter.

Earlier this month, Gunnison County Sheriff Adam Murdie noted that it was not uncommon for other hikers and backpackers to pitch their tents close to where the Vances had. However, deaths were very uncommon. Ms. Jara said she hoped that her family’s experience would make others think twice about going off the grid themselves.