I'd agree the smaller vehicle+trailer is the way to go to save on money/gas. I'd also agree the Element is a good choice. You can hose out their interiors, and it offers a lot of options for reconfiguring space. I think you should hold out for the Element. Some of the other vehicles you mentioned are OK choices, but if you're serious about hauling around a lot of stuff/dogs, what price do you put on your cleaning time? Even if you get an older/cheaper/non-awd model, it's still a vehicle optimized to do exactly what you need to do with it. I wouldn't really even be that scared of high miles. Even big ticket repairs aren't that expensive on them.
Also, I would evaluate whether you need 4wd. I do just fine on snowy NY roads with fwd on a compact car. If you know how to drive and keep aggressive tires on the front, you should be fine. And worst case you either carry come-a-longs in your car to pull yourself out of things or you suck it up and ask your truck driving buddies to pull you out. If you're doing more serious off-roading than that, you probably don't want to risk your daily driver doing it - get a compact car for your long haul road driving and an old 4wd truck/jeep for the trails.