Just my observation, but if anything it seemed to me that most of the time efforts were made to make this a tough trip, but a scenic one. By definition it is supposed to follow the Pacific Crest Trail as closely as practical or at least that was the case according to the route in Bil Paul's book this AC route is based on.
Not sure what your route was like, but the Idyllwild section was lovely. The ride was challenging, but scenic and Idllwild was a nice town to stop in.
We did take what we figured was an easier option for part of a day from Springfield to Lemon Cove by riding into the Central Valley.
I found the portion of the SC that we did (we stopped after detouring to Reno to fly home) to be a very difficult trip, but think that is what it is supposed to be.