Hey Drum, and welcome to our friendly Cameralabs forum!
As with any first time DSLR buyer, choosing a brand can be tough. Remember that once you choose your brand, it's expensive to change as that brand's lenses won't work with another brands, so pick a brand that is going to work well for you in the long run. For example, if Pentax makes good entry level cameras but lousy higher-end cameras that you may want to upgrade to in the future, they won't be good in the long run. Now, say that Canon makes just so-so entry level cams but awesome pro level cameras, they'll be good in the future, but not right now. Now say tht Sony has some good entry level ones and higher-end ones, consider them.
Lens wise, I find that they are all very similar, BUT (Yes, I know that I'm going to be yelled at for this) I find that the Canon and Nikon lens lineup are a notch above the other brands (Although it really depends on the lens, some Nikon lenses may be worse than some Pentax lenses, or vice-versa, but that's just my personal opinion!).
Zackie also makes a compelling argument, the A550 and A560 are both very good cameras. Also consider the A330, here in Canada, you can get them for cheap!
The Pentax KX is a VERY good entry level body, perhaps one of the best out there! You're really getting a bang for your buck with the KX.
Canon wise, check out the T2i or T1i. I think that the T1i is a bit cheaper, but I've heard that the T2i is worth the extra money.
With the Nikons, the D90 or D3100 are great. Consider the D3100, it has many great features for the beginner. Also, the D90 has DRAMATICALLY dropped in price since the D7000, it's been marked down from $1000 to $700 in Canada.
Overall, you can't go wrong with any camera, but remember that what makes a good picture is 90% the photographer, 8% the lens and only 2% the body, so take some photography classes and consider some good glass as well. Try finding the VR or IS with longer telephotos, but it's not needed for WA, and usually not normal lenses but it certainly is helpful.
For me, I shoot only with 35mm film right now, I'm waiting for the D7000 to come out (Which is only 7 days now!