My neighbor Bill told me earlier this spring that him and some of his buddies from work were going to Glacier National Park in Montana this July for four full days of backpacking, and I was, to say the least, quite a bit jealous. Glacier is on my and every other backpacker's "life list" of national parks to hike, so I knew I would have to live vicariously through Bill's stories and pictures until Brooke, Hunter & I could get ourselves to Montana. With Bill's trip inching closer on the calendar, he figured a nice, long trial run would be good for him and all of his new (and borrowed from me) gear. We decided via group e-mail that a quick jaunt up to Jaffrey, NH would be perfect. Mount Monadnock, southern NH's 3,165 foot peak (and also the second most hiked peak in the world behind Japan's Mt. Fuji), is only an hour away from where we live, and sports a nice 9-mile round trip hike to the summit. Bill, Mark and I met Bob & Brian, two of Bill's pals, at the trailhead around 9am on Saturday. It was an exact 4.5 mile trip up and 4.5 mile trip back down to the cars, so despite the light weight of my day pack I was debating internally whether or not I could handle 9 miles in my abysmal physical condition. Bill and Bob, prepping for Glacier, had on their 55 and 70 liter packs, respectively, to fully appreciate how 10 mile days with 35lbs. will feel in the coming days. The five of us ambled our way 4.5 miles to the top of the mountain with liberal water breaks, and enjoyed the scenery of southern New Hampshire along the way. With this mountain being incredibly popular, we were forced to share the summit with 60-80 other hikers and "hikers." Once back to the cars, we enjoyed some refreshing beverages before hitting the road and driving our 70 miles back to the Blackstone Valley. Bill's gear didn't weigh him down too bad, and his outlook for Montana is more than positive, so his trip is sure to be a winner. And thankfully, because I bought most of my gear from REI and EMS, I can sleep knowing their bulletproof return policies offer more assurance than Bill's backcountry skills!