I agree with everything you said Don, and your results are speaking for themselves. Local contrast is the key. Adams alludes to this but doesn't really talk much about it. I've come to believe Kodak endorsements may have had a subtle influence in the editing of his books. Or maybe he just became enthralled with that type of technical detail in his later years as the technology moved out of the Rochester laboratries.
But to me, the masking process seems very time consuming and tedious. I know Lynn Radeka (sp?) uses a similar process with exquisite results. Many others though, are achieving that feeling of light without masking. My feeling is that it can still be achieved with more straightforward technique.
However, to qualify my statement, I don't feel that I have achieved that feeling yet.