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July 17, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Where is northern BC should I spend a month?

Here is the deal - I am a medical student and want to spend a month doing rural family practice.

I have a couple of choices in both city and date.

I can either go to these places from Nov 21-Dec18 or Apr 2 - Apr 29.

My city choices are Valemount, Mackenzie, Dawson Creek or Fort Dt John.

Any suggestions?

I am leaning towards valemount in April but am worried that april would be a terrible month full of slush!

posted by ouchitburns to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Valemont. It's close to such diverse landscapes, it's not a million miles from anywhere, it's a mellow town with decent coffee and a good ratio of relaxed nature-oriented people to logger/miner/driller types. Drop dead gorgeous locale.

Dawson creek and fort st john are pretty much the exact opposite. I've never been to Mackenzie.
posted by Rumple at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2011

April in any of those places is likely to still be full of snow. I agree with Rumple, though, that Valemount is far and away the prettiest of these places.
posted by synecdoche at 1:58 PM on July 17, 2011

You're not going to get nice weather anywhere in N.BC in April. You might luck out with some nice days, but there will still be snow, rain, etc.

I was in Valemount briefly last month and it's absolutely beautiful. I've only passed through Dawson Creek but it seems nice enough. Spent about a month in Fort St John and wasn't particularly impressed, although there are some cool small shops (thrift stores, used books,etc.)

So I would rank them in that order:
2.Dawson Creek
3.Ft. St. John

Never been to Mackenzie so can't offer an opinion, but what about Fort Nelson? It's way up in the Northern corner of the province so it's definitely remote, but is rather unique and you'd be able to take some road trips up to the Liard Hot Springs or even to Yukon/NWT/Alaska if you wanted.
posted by mannequito at 2:21 PM on July 17, 2011

I spent some time in Mackenzie, and wouldn't recommend it. Just a small logging town, not much there. Maybe in the summer it'd be OK because there are some nice lakes.
posted by Emanuel at 4:58 PM on July 17, 2011

I would choose Dawson Creek. It's more family-oriented than Fort St John (which is a bustling, dirty, drug-fueled town), it's closer to Alberta, and is also closer to Tumbler Ridge, which itself an interesting town with a small Museum of Paleontology and, I think, some skiing.

Dawson Creek is also close to the Rockies. Valemont is in the Rockies, but your only chance to get to a bigger town is going to be Prince George or Fort St John (Chetwynd is another option, but I've never been there).
posted by KokuRyu at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2011

I used to work in medical offices in Fort St. John, their doctors are fantastic and some of the nicest people I've ever I'm partial :). Plus, each place has its own size, demographic and range of health services it offers that could be relevant to your decision depending on what you want out of the experience. I'd say that's worth investigating.
posted by joannqy at 6:08 PM on July 17, 2011

KokuRyu's description of FSJ is basically what I would have said but I didn't want to slag the town based off my limited experiences. But yeah, there's definitely an underlying feel of seediness and despair there. I knew another guy who lived there for years and he said a lot of oil-riggers wash up there after coke and meth addicitions ruin their lives.

Also, Chetwynd is really nice but not much bigger than Valemount. So you will wind up in Dawson Creek or Prince George for various bigger-town-needs. Still voting for Valemount though!
posted by mannequito at 7:08 PM on July 17, 2011

Oh, hi. Seventeen-year FSJ/DC resident. Current Prince George resident.

FSJ/DC are hellholes but you will see a wide cross-section of practice. Fort St. John has just completed a new hospital and it's a great facility. Dawson I know nothing about their medical facilities but the town was and is an awful, filthy place, just like Fort St. John but with less money being made. All that said, you are going to be there a month or so and will get some good experience.

I'd choose Valemount or Mackenzie. Valemount is prettier. Mackenzie is closer to PG (and pseudo-civilization).
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:24 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're only going for a month I wouldn't be overly concerned about proximity to bigger places. Valemount is about equidistant to Kamloops and Prince George, about 4 hrs driving (which in BC is practically next door). I'd go to Kamloops, myself, but they are similar size towns with similar opportunities. But then, you're only out there for a month so I would plan on not even going out to a large town. You can get all the food you need locally.

If you are going to have time for outside activities then, again, Valemount is the best place. You're only an hour and a half, max, to Jasper, which, while a small town, has a good set of restaurants and bars and stuff to do, people to meet. There is great canoeing in the immediate area, e.g. on the headwaters of the Columbia (it's right near where the Fraser flows out of one side of a marsh and the Columbia out of the other). The hiking is superlative locally and, of course, in Jasper National Park. Just driving around is amazing - I'd never get tired of bending under the shadow of Mt Robson! In the Rocky Mountain trench to the NW, along the route to PG, there are interesting Mennonite communities with farm markets, etc. around McBride. (though in April or Dec, maybe not so much). But solid pioneer communities nonetheless.

Ft St John is a resource town. It's ok, but doesn't compare. The Peace River country is gorgeous overall, and you'd be smack in the middle of it, but Ft St John doesn't really engage with it. It's resources, baby. Dawson Creek is similar, if a little nicer, a little smaller and prettier, I guess.

Like I implied above, Valemount has some good coffee bars and a tiny cultural scene that as a busy, educated professional might give you an easier entry into the life of the town. On the other hand, I doubt it even has a movie theatre, or a gym. So, it depends what you want to do in your spare time, I guess. Ft St John is maybe an authentic BC experience, while Valemount is 50% a tourist/heli-ski centre.

Valemont is one of the snowiest places in BC. Blue River, just down the road an hour or so, gets something like 40 feet of snow a year. So April vs December, there'll be snow I bet. But April, the town will be coming out of winter and spirits will be higher. That's worth something, I bet.
posted by Rumple at 8:32 PM on July 17, 2011

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