Tim Watkins’ Last Ride
Watkins grew up in Palmer Lake and he was intimately familiar with the landscape. His days–and sometimes nights–were spent biking in Pike and San Isabel National Forest. In fact, he was known to sometimes disappear into the wilderness and not return until the next day.
In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, he had been sleeping in his car–but not for recreational purposes. Watkins had been struggling with memory problems for quite some time and his moods were a constant roller coaster. A few days before he disappeared, his wife Ginger asked him to leave the house. It was less a separation than an attempted rest, she said.
On the night of Thursday, September 14, 2017, Ginger arrived home at 8:30 p.m. and noticed that her husband’s car was there–but he was not. Noting that his mountain bike was missing and concerned about the late hour, she sent him a text inquiring about his whereabouts. When he still wasn’t home in the morning, she reached out again.
A Gruesome Discovery
Eventually, Ginger reported Watkins missing. With the authorities unwilling to get involved, she posted her concerns on social media and a group of friends and family banded together to form a search party. By Saturday, the throng contained about 60 people.
Not long after the search began, a woman spotted Watkin’s shoe–still buckled and strapped tight–on the side of the road. This was enough to get authorities interested, and about three hours later, his bike was discovered. The front tire was flat and it was laid on its side. Soon, another civilian spotted Watkins’ cell-phone case, grocery card, and other wallet contents.
It was not much later that police discovered Watkins’ body buried beneath logs and branches in a shallow depression, about 40 yards off the trail. He had been shot three times.
An Area Known For Trouble
The area around Mount Herman Road, where Watkins was killed, is infamous for gun activity. Sport shooters have frequented the spot, aptly nicknamed ‘Shooter’s Alley,’ for decades–despite the fact that the practice is illegal. And Shooter’s Alley is only one of three heavily damaged shooting sites near the crime scene–walk just a few yards in either direction, and you’ll find dozens of pockmarked trees, targets, and stuffed animals.
The problem, according to many hikers and bikers, is an overly-lenient Forest Service who doesn’t properly enforce “No Shooting” regulations. Many locals report seeing an official presence only a couple of times a year. And the problem isn’t limited to Colordado–outdoor enthusiasts in several states have been complaining about unsafe target shooters.
Common issues include shooting into trees without proper earthen backstops, shooting at night, and shooting over roads and trails–all illegal. In a society where more and more people are heading outdoors for both recreation and exercise, this could prove to be a huge issue.
As far as the Tim Watkins case stands, it is an ongoing investigation and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office won’t comment on possible suspects or motive.