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Groveland man develops guides, audio tours for Yosemite tourists

When Kris Corey was working the breakfast buffet at a Groveland hotel, tourists would ask him a question he found disturbing: "What should I see if I have only one day in Yosemite?"

One day in Yosemite? To Corey, a former game warden turned waiter who has spent the past 20 years prowling the park, that was unthinkable.

What about the hidden meadows? The high-country lakes? The bar in the Ahwahnee Hotel?

"I learned that people would get out of their cars and wander around, not knowing what to see," Corey said. "I'd give them ideas about where they might want to go."

Corey gave so much advice he eventually developed "Yosemite Audio Adventures," a series of seven CDs and four guide books designed for park visitors who have only a day or two to spend in the national park.

All four "Audio Adventures" begin in the historic town of Groveland on the Highway 120 route into Yosemite. They are: "Groveland to Yosemite Valley," "Groveland to Yosemite Valley & Glacier Point," "Groveland to Tioga Pass" and "Groveland to Yosemite Valley & Tioga Pass."

"There are nearly 748,000 acres in Yosemite," Corey said. "It can't really be seen in one day, or even in one lifetime, especially if you don't have a plan."

Corey should know. The 54-year-old left his job as a Sacramento-area game warden in the 1990s and moved to McCauley Hill, in Mariposa County, so he could be closer to Yosemite. He's worked odd jobs — a sommelier in a hotel, worker in a feed store, clerk in a video store — and spent every free moment getting to know the park.

During his travels, he'd jot down tidbits he picked up about Yosemite and its outskirts. How many hotels served alcohol in Groveland during Prohibition? (Seven). How many species of bats live in the Hetch Hetchy Valley? (A whopping 17).

These notes eventually worked their way into scripts for the CDs. Corey, author of numerous articles in the park newspaper, the Yosemite Gazette, wrote and recorded the scripts himself.

He even taped wildlife — chirping birds and hooting owls — for the soundtrack. He put the whole thing together using Garage Band software on his Apple computer. The process took the better part of a year.

Next came the hard part: the timing. Most recorded travel guides require the driver to stop the car, push a button and listen to a guide discuss the scenery, landmarks, etc. Corey wanted his CDs to play while the car was moving, focusing on points of interest as the driver went past them.

Corey drove Highway 120 countless times, making sure, for example, that the CD discussed Crane Flat when a car going the speed limit was actually passing Crane Flat.

"I spent a million in gas driving back and forth with a stopwatch," he said.

Actually, Corey figures he spent a few thousand dollars on the project. He'd like to make back his investment, and eventually create more CDs taking tourists to the park from other entrances.

But he says he'll be happy if the CDs help people enjoy the national park he loves.

Even if they have only one day.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

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