Thanks for the nice words about my photographs, Brent. As for John lightening up I think its one of those things people usually don't let you take too much out of their pack the first time and it takes a few trips for them to learn what they need and what they really don't. I might get him out for a much shorter trip with other new-to-backpacking friends I've tried to get out in the mountains. His plan now is to do longer day hikes and work his way up into being in better shape.
You may miss the rhododendrons by a week or so with your trip, but it'll be a beautiful section to hike anyway (regardless of the weather). Have fun and report back when you're done with the trip!