The first DSLR camera I ever used as a Canon that was leant to me by my brother's girlfriend for a Nevada desert sojourn four years ago. I immediately fell in love with the power of the camera. When I purchased my own six months later it was a Nikon D90, which had a good package going at the time. I love both makes and have seen awesome results from Panasonic and Olympus as well.
Trust me when I say they are all made so good these days. I would personally go with a Canon Rebel if you are just starting out and want to keep to a budget. If you want a bit of power and have a few extra dollars to spend, the Nikon D7000 is impressive, and as close to getting full frame results without paying full frame prices.