On further thought I probably would not be picking up 2K# rocks, but rather probably 1000 or less. I want the extra lifting capacity to have some margin of safety and workload.
One neighbor just got a load of gravel and some fairly large boulders 4 to 5 feet across - thinking they are well over 2K#. I know he won't be able to lift them with his compact tractor which I think is a B-something Kubota, or around that size.
Other neighbor just ordered an L3800 HST with loader and mower. He got the 5 series loader which is only 1500# capacity.
I would like to find a deal on an L series or about that size with both loader and backhoe. I recognize that the backhoe would be very useful for what I want to do - especially lifting a large rock and placing it somewhere. I have at least several hundred feet of sloping embankments I want to put large rocks on, and I may also build some terraces. Lifting and placing that rock by hand is out of the question, using a loader would be clumsy and time consuming, with final placement probably being done by hand as the loader would lack the precision of the backhoe.
That said, I looked at my finances and I decided to hold off until next year. So far I spent $14K this year on property improvements, I will soon spend another $7K in a month or so, and the year isn't half over yet. Probably get a flail mower for the BCS too. So the only way I can really get the tractor I want, used or new, is a loan. Kubota has 0% loans on new tractors, but I don't want the additional debt and payments at this point, so I will hold off for a while.
I will make do with the 2 wheel tractor this year. It can't lift things, or pull them, but it can mow, till and push a little dirt. Mostly this year I want to get the slash piles burnt and use a dozer to level the ruts caused by logging and to clear some additional brush. Next year I can mess with the rock.
As for the HST vs. gears - for what I will be doing, I would prefer the HST. I will be doing a lot of moving stuff around, speeding up and slowing down, going back and forth, the kind of tasks that an HST is better for.