Thanks for the recommendation, MTB forum
My ownership history of MTBs includes:
Old carbon fiber Cadex (sold - too old, too small)
KHS soft tail (great bike but sold for Cannondale)
Cannondale F600 disc (loved it but it got stolen)
Merlin (sold - felt cheesy riding an awesome bike with no skill, plus I found I'm not a big Ti fan)
Trek 4300 (just purchased after 2 year hiatus from MTBing)
I got the 4300 because it felt the best on test rides, and honestly I have a thing for cheaper components these days. Kind of like 'em. The bike rode great except for the fork... wanted to upgrade that elastomer wonder (Gila RST) immediately, so I searched quite a bit on this forum and the review sites.
Came up with my answer as the Rock Shox Tora 302 w/poploc based on your recommendations. Tossed that bad boy on and it really made a world of difference. I love the lockout on the fly, I love the damping. It made my $420 bike ride like my former $1000+ bikes. Gracias amigos.