The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Back along US-101, on the banks of the Eel River midway between the coast and the Humboldt Redwoods, Scotia was the last true company town left in California. The Pacific Lumber Company (a.k.a. PALCO) built it and, for most of the 20th century, owned and operated everything, from the two huge wood-cutting mills to the 10 blocks of pastel-painted houses, church, and schools that constituted this little community of about 1,000 people.
The lumber mills used to be the heart and soul of the town, as well as Scotia’s main tourist attraction, but after a 1980s junk-bond leveraged buyout and subsequent asset-stripping PALCO finally went bankrupt in 2007. Since then the town and the mills have struggled to find a way forward, but Scotia is still a proud and photogenic place, well worth a look and a wander.
In summer, the heart of Scotia is the rustic and historic Winema Theater (113 Main St.), which screens movies on weekend nights (plus an old-fashioned Saturday matinee). The one place to stay in town is the rustic Scotia Inn (100 Main St., 707/764-5338, $75 and up), which has B&B rooms and a very good restaurant. Part of the old lumber mill has been reconfigured into a biofueled home for the excellent (and 100 percent organic) Eel River Brewery, which operates a popular tasting room and restaurant at its original location near Ferndale, off US-101 in the hamlet of Fortuna (1777 Alamar Way, 707/725-2739).