There’s no time like any time to load up a bun with vinegar sauced Pulled Pork Sandwiches with a tangy North Carolina sauce. Especially when there’s a few dogs in tow.
School’s back in session and even though most of us are wishing we didn’t have to say, “See you next year,” to the youthful delights that late night’s basking under the stars can bring, I hope you created some amazing memories to add to the bank of best moments in time.
Because we sure did.
Our forever memories bloomed this past July when we made our way to 10,000 vertical feet in Utah’s Uintah National Forest with 32 dogs who would be leading us on the adventure of a lifetime. So when Smudge is asked what her favorite part of summer was, it’s been an easy answer, “I spent the summer with my cousins and we went to Sled Dog Camp.” Because isn’t that what every kid does in the summer?
With her two cousins visiting for nearly a month, summer consisted of hardcore bonding time, and while a trip to Yellowstone, the Amusement Park and water slides galore were certainly fun, I know what’s going to rule in my girl’s world: Anything that involves a dog.
So when Mimi and Papa wrangled an overnight dog sled trip with Pawsatch Snow Dogs, the cousins were beyond excited. Almost as excited as those snow dogs being hooked to the line and ready to run.
I mean, who couldn’t love a face like this? Meet Chewbacca, 120 pounds of furry adventure.
Two summers ago my Smudge attended a once a week day camp with Pawsatch Snow Dogs, based in Park City, Utah. She learned about dog safety, care and some basics of commanding a sled team. Things like yelling “Hike” for “move it along dogs, and “Gee!” for take the next left. Too bad they never worked for when she was cleaning her room.
An overnight camp trip in the beautiful mountains with a bunch of poochers. What better surprise to spring on the cousins than the chance for all of them to have their own sled dog team for an entire night?
With our girls and Pawsatch owner Neal Bowlen and his dog-running assistant Alisha in charge of the pups, we were assigned to provide all of the food (right up our alley!) for our overnight adventure and be ready to listen to some howling puppies.
Plenty of people, including me, have asked, “why the overnight trip? Why not just do a ride during the day?” The answer: these dogs are working, running and pulling 800-1000 pounds when the sled is loaded and in the daytime heat. Which goes against their make-up of hauling in the snow during frigid temps. The alternative to training in the heat is for Neal to make overnight trips and run the dogs in the cool nighttime mountain air.
And that gives folks like us a chance to get hands on with puppers and learn how to really harness a sled dog.
Knowing this was going to be a working camp and not a leisure camp, G Dawg and I put our heads together and decided we needed a dinner recipe that could do the following:
- it could be made ahead and reheated to serve
- we didn’t know what our hosts tastes were so it had to be basic enough for the picky eaters but have plenty of toppings to give it some flavor and sass
- it needed to be a one-plate, one-hand dinner that could be eaten anytime depending on when people (or dogs) could eat and have super easy clean-up
G had been reading a recent Esquire mag and had been eyeing a recipe he had discovered. Another version of one we make all the time, so he decided to meld the two for a new rendition. Enter Pulled Pork Sandwiches with all the fixins.
The day before we left on our adventure, a dry rubbed pork shoulder went into fridge overnight to marinate in the flavors. The next day it went into the oven for 2 hours, set out to cool, then shredded and ready to be doused with a vinegar sauce to give it some pucker and kick when we reheated it over the campfire.
But dinner time for the two legged hounds would have to wait. Taking care of snow dogs always come first.
The girls were put straight to work, with guidance and orders of how things were done so nobody got hurt, or dogs to get lost.
Unloading the dogs from Neil’s custom built trailer and getting the eager pups on the tie-line is the first order of business.
Neil makes sure everyone’s being trained and being safe along with his daughter EV and her expert dog handling skills helping Lar-bear and Jack out of the kennel and onto the tie line on each side of the trailer, making room for all 32 highly excited dogs and their individual personalities. Let’s all get along pups.
Smudge and Olio love the puppies who are already in training to soon take over the reigns. Okay, back to work girls and remember 4 fingers under the collar at all times.
Neil’s main dog handler Alisha was great with the girls, giving them just enough guidance and just enough space to own their adventure.
Lucky us, Neil brought along his 9-year old twins and his 4 year old son, the cutest family ever. The dogs live with the family on their ranch, so for the Bowlen clan this is just part of everyday. But what I loved about all of this is Neil’s kids weren’t assigned duties like the newbies on the lot, so while the twins were riding their bikes on the dirt path and Char was playing with sticks in the dirt, the chores and responsibilities were all for the cousins to do and learn this time around.
Yes, including poop patrol. Let’s go ladies…
While the rain clouds were rolling in, grandpa and GDawg built the fire for the feast soon to come and the girls got to work feeding the dogs.
Jack has such good manners.
A touch of the nose with a bowl, so he or she knows theirs is coming. Then place it well in front of them so the food can be poured. It’s like they’ve been knighted with their food. Jack might be the king.
No, they aren’t chomping at the bit, ready for a taste or anything…
The dogs are fed a mix of high protein, specially formulated dog food that’s been soaked in fortified water. Water and more water for these hard working dogs, hydration is key.
Dinner is served and kisses for the cook. One more turn on the other side of the trailer for the rest of the pups and now it’s our turn for some grub.
I warmed my buns on the hot rocks that made our fire ring and then layered the pulled pork, coleslaw, a generous dripping of the sauce and made my way to the condiment table for extra pickles and potato chips for crunch. I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am.
- In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and the dry spices together. Massage the mixture into the pork, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Lay pork on a rack insert fitted inside a roasting pan just large enough to fit the meat into, just high enough so the pork is sitting above the cooking liquid. Pour in apple juice and water, cover pan tightly with foil, and slow roast for 5 hours. Remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes, until pork is brown outside and meat is basically falling apart.
- Remove from the oven, place on a platter and let the meat cool for 15 minutes. Using two forks or your fingers, shred the meat into chunks. Add the drippings back into the pork and stir. Transfer to a serving bowl for serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To reheat bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or on a camp fire for 1/2 hour in a dutch oven or camp pot in the ashen coals.
- Ladle a serving of meat on a warm bun and serve with coleslaw, pickles and BBQ sauce.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients except vinegar to the saucepan and cook until brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar and serve warm with pork or at room temperature.
Now that dinner’s done Diesel wants to know if we can please go on a ride?
Time to get out the tack, the lines and get this show on the road.
Do you girls want rain coats or jackets? Oh yeah, right. Think again gramma. We’re in the thick of it now.
And then the frenzy began. As soon as the first dog is approached, it becomes a howling mash-up. It’s a dance to keep lines from tangling, dogs from escaping. These dogs are born to run, live to run and are so excited they’re jumping out of their skins. The howls these dogs create is astonishing. And goose bump creating. And deafening. It was awesome.
The only rule at his stage of the game: Don’t let go of the dog.
Huge thanks to Neil, Alisha and the great Bowlen kids for an experience we’ll never forget, and to Mimi & Papa for pulling it all together. And just remember your Pawsatch peeps, if you’re ever in need of campmates, we’ll come and cook for you anytime.
See more of these amazing dogs on the Pawsatch Facebook page.
I loved this trip so much I had to share it with you, and I was not compensated in any way. And as always, thank you for supporting my partners which allows me to create new and special content for my readers. All opinions are my own.