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OUTDOORS IN THE CROSSROADS: Rough it or live it up?

By Julie Garcia
Oct. 8, 2013 at 5:08 a.m.

Campers at Victoria Coleto Creek Campground are treated to an inground pool, bath facilities and other amenities.

Craving a chance to relive a childhood scouting experience and rough it in the wilderness for a few days?

Or maybe you'd rather escape the busy city (if anything, congested roadways) but still be able to watch "The Walking Dead" premiere on AMC.

There are different options available for any outdoors camping preference, whether it be sleeping under the stars or enjoying the stars before curling up in a recreational vehicle.

The Victoria Coleto Creek KOA Campground, 500 Coleto Park Road, opened last fall, and with the amenities it offers, it's like staying in a motel but with campfires and fishing.

"All you have to bring is food and your clothes, and you can stay as short or as long as you want to," said Terry Dick, general manager at Coleto Creek KOA. "You're out in the country, not in the hustle and bustle of a city or a town - you're still in nature."

With electric hookups, sewer, water and cable TV, an RV stay at KOA is ideal for a relaxing outdoors weekend.

Though still new last season, Victoria's KOA has seen a rise in reservations for November through March - it's "Winter Texans" season.

"They come from up north to escape from the snow," Dick said. "They come to Florida, Arizona and Texas - they're called snowbirds or Winter Texans."

Most of them are retirees who no longer feel the need to suffer through another hard winter, Dick said.

Like migratory birds, the growing group of campers come down in their RVs to soak up the winter sun in South Padre Island, the Valley and Houston, he said.

"It's just about getting them to stop here," Dick said.

Besides temporary Texans, weekends are hopping with more local campers this time of year. Holiday weekends can get busy, Dick said.

"We get a lot of families with children on the weekends," Dick said. "Kids play in the pool while the parents can relax and sit outside for a while."

While Coleto Creek has all the amenities for luxury camping, there isn't an area for tents.

One of the closest places to get a real camping experience would be Goliad State Park, only about a quarter-mile south of Goliad on U.S. 183 and 77A.

While the park has RV park amenities in one area, others are dedicated to tents, campfires and the wilderness.

In other words, bring a flashlight.

James Baker, maintenance specialist for the state park, said that he prefers a more primitive camping experience.

"I'm more of a traditional camper when I do camp," he said, adding that he notices that the younger crowd prefers to put up tents compared to parking an RV.

"The older campers tend to have at least an RV or camper to sleep in, and I can surely understand that," Baker said.

Winter Texans are common in the state park, as well.

In any state park, there is a two-month limit for campers. But this doesn't deter travelers from the north.

One advantage that camping in a state park may have would be the opportunity to fish without a license.

"No license is needed in a state park if you fish off the embankment," Baker said. "If you go out on a boat, you need a license."

Kayaking, canoeing, running and walking trails are all a part of the state park package.

Goliad, in particular, has many annual events that focus on the history behind the town, including a 70-mile bike ride called Missions Tour de Goliad on Oct. 19.

Either way you prefer, camping in South Texas can be enjoyable depending on the time of year and mosquito situation.

Just remember to forget the schedules, agendas and smartphones in the city.

The stars are just as beautiful from a sleeping bag or through the roof of a luxury RV.

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