The Gatekeepers: Nora Coffey

From campground calamities to real-life Yogi bears, state park employees see and do it all. But it’s not just camp stories they’re privy to! Pocket Ranger™’s weekly series gives you a glimpse inside the lives of these park heros with tales and happenings from beyond the park gates.


Name: Nora Coffey

Current Position: Park Ranger, Lake James State Park, North Carolina 

Why did you become a park ranger?
I became a park ranger because I like spending time outdoors. I wanted to do something to help the environment and educate others about it, and it seemed like it would be a fun job. 

What are the highs and lows of the job?
The best thing about what I do is that every day is something different.  The job never gets boring! The worst thing about what I do is that I have to work most weekends and all holidays in the summer months. 

What is the strangest thing you have encountered while on duty?
It would have to be a wedding that was held in one of the picnic shelters at the park.  The groom pulled up in a bass boat, and was dressed in his tuxedo. There was also an Elvis impersonator singing at the wedding.

What would most people find surprising about your job?
The variety of responsibilities that we have as park rangers. We are law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, resource managers, and quite often office workers, carpenters and maintenance mechanics.

Off-duty you’ll likely find me: Cooking, hiking, or playing and/or relaxing on the lake.

If it were not for Pocket Ranger™… I’d have to get on my computer more, which I don’t like.

Best reason to bring along your own Pocket Ranger™: The app saves you, and us, from printing out park maps and brochures—therefore saving paper.

Favorite outdoor snack: Fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit.

Apps I love:

  • Pocket Universe is a great app for learning the night sky.  It shows you in real time where to find all of the night sky objects, like planets, stars, and constellations. 
  • Google Maps for finding my way to new places.
  • Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends when I have a few extra minutes. 
  • Martha’s Everyday Food is one of my favorites because I can search for new recipes.

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