By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 30, 2013
When I was a child, I went to the zoo pretty frequently with my family. I’ve seen lions and tigers numerous times. But in all those trips, I’d never been within five feet of one of these animals — until Sunday.
My Parental Unit was in town last week. We picked up a copy of the Independent Weekly, which had an insert about Triangle nonprofits; it’s part of a campaign to raise money for 28 different charities. As my parent flipped through it, a listing for Carolina Tiger Rescue stood out.
I knew that there was some kind of sanctuary for big cats in Chatham County, but I’d never seriously considered visiting it. However, if my visitor was enthusiastic about the prospect, then I was up for it. We booked two tickets for Sunday’s 2 p.m. tour.
Chatham is mostly rural — it has about 66,000 residents spread across about 682.2 square miles; the average of 93.1 people per square mile is less than half the state’s overall population density. Carolina Tiger Rescue is located about a 50-minute drive from my urban home in Durham; the preserve is a short distance east of Pittsboro (2010 population: 3,743).
We started the day by heading down to Chapel Hill, which is about halfway between where I live and the preserve, and brunching at Crooks Corner. (It was excellent; I’d never before been to this renowned restaurant, but I plan to return.) After we ate, we had some time to kill, so my parent and I walked east on Franklin Street toward the post office.