Have you looked at the Giant Anyroad? A friend of mine created one out of a Giant Roam about 2 years ago, showed it to Giant, and now they have it as a separate model. I bet it would give you the best of both road and trail bike.
I would like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions. I am leaning towards the AWOL but have a bit of reservation on it being steel (weight vs aluminium). However, I'll wait to see it in the shop.
I am curious tho, no one mentioned Kona or Salsa bikes.