My suggestion is to start off with a proper base. A Giant Fathom is a good choice for a hardtail. Not much to upgrade and it’s a great ride. Wait for a sale (15% off is ideal) and you should be golden. Good luck!
This is Bianca, my 2018 Giant Trance 2. I rekindled my love of mountain biking after 3 years off. I previously had a 2003 Giant Rainer hardtail so my upgrade needed to be full suspension all mountain, on sale. $2200 for this bad girl and I was in! Now I can ride for the foreseeable future on a bike that can handle everything. Saddle up boys!