Cool Temps and Little Traffic
On to the High Country and Dawson Saddle
About seven miles from Newcomb Ranch I reach Cloudburst Summit. I'm well into the back range of the San Gabriels now. Even though it is early afternoon in late August, it is pleasantly cool and breezy here. Weekday traffic on this part of Angeles Crest Highway is scant. 
I no longer feel like I am simply riding around the hills above Los Angeles. In fact, it is hard to believe I am still in Los Angeles County, population approaching 10 million.

Speaking of Los Angeles, the city's Department of Recreation and Parks has long operated vacation camps. One of them is Camp Valcrest, which is a couple miles past Newcomb Ranch.

It's in a very pleasant setting. Looks like a nice facility.

After Cloudburst Summit (which, thankfully, did not live up to its name on this day), there is about a two-mile downhill through Buckhorn. Buckhorn draws a fair number of campers, hikers and mountain bikers on weekends. It's pretty quiet today, though. Below is a little digital video panorama of what it looks like around Buckhorn.
After Buckhorn is the Bighorn Sheep preserve. Apparently there aren't a lot of Bighorns left in the San Gabriels and what few there are are protected out here in the back country. The road also goes right through a hillside via two tunnels, which have a combined length of maybe half a mile.

After this tunnel I am about eight miles and 1400' of elevation gain from the high point on the road, Dawson Saddle.

I seem to have gotten above the alpine level, so I start to look at other things. For example, this road cut sure reminds me of Granite Gate on the trail to Mt. Lowe. (I'll have to take the camera on a Mt. Lowe hike sometime and add it to my SoCal Outings page.) 
Although more sparse than at the alpine level, the vegetation here has its own rugged charm. This tree appears to be growing out of solid rock.
I've ridden to Dawson Saddle a few times before this and I can tell you it is never easy. There are a few miles of steady climbing before the summit, which probably wouldn't be too hard if it wasn't for the elevation and the fatigue in getting to this point. (And having panniers on the bike doesn't help.)

However, as remote as this part of the road seems, it's not too remote for emergency call boxes. I don't need one, but still, it's nice to know that they're there.

Once I get to Dawson Saddle, I know I'll be OK.

I'd like to report that there is something tremendous at this high point on the highway, but there isn't. Just a maintenance shed and a sign with the elevation. There's a trailhead nearby and some views of the Mojave below.

By the way, this will give you some sense of the view from around Dawson Saddle. The desert looks vast, sparsely populated (at least this part of it) and no doubt on this afternoon really, really hot.

PART 4: To Big Pines and Wrightwood

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