Oakland couple to retire from restoring Pockwockamus Rock mural at Baxter State Park

Posted May 30, 2013, at 5:51 a.m.

TOWNSHIP 2 RANGE 9 — An icon to recreationalists headed toward Baxter State Park, the often photographed Pockwockamus Rock has been a fresh yet almost entirely original face to the world for 23 years thanks to Abbott and Nancy Meader.

The artists and annual Baxter park campers from Oakland have repainted the mural on the large rock a mile from the park’s south entrance since Maine Youth Conservation Corps volunteers first created it in 1979.

This year will be their last.

“We are looking for other artists to do it now,” said 75-year-old Nancy Meader, a potter and painter who plans to shop for successors after she writes about painting the rock for the Friends of Baxter State Park newsletter.

The 77-year-old Abbott Meader said the couple has enjoyed the volunteer work but wants to retire. Painting a several-ton boulder in the middle of the north Maine woods can be taxing, as Meader discovered during the couple’s first restoration in 1990.

“I found out what Pockwockamus means,” Meader said he announced at the time. “It’s Penobscot Indian, of course, and it stands for ‘all the mosquitoes in the world.’”

The rock is on Maine Department of Transportation land and has become a popular tourist stop, Baxter park Director Jensen Bissell said. Volunteers originally painted it to cover graffiti that seemed especially offensive with the view of Mount Katahdin beyond.

A park worker who saw the Meaders painting park cabins suggested that they repaint the rock. Eager to avoid what he called “Baxter Park brown,” the clotted paint that they were slapping onto the cabins — “You have to stir it for an hour,” Abbott Meader said — the couple took to the work eagerly. Return engagements occurred in 1998 and 2007.

Graffiti has marred their work only once. Someone had begun to write M-e-d, possibly for Medway, but stopped.

The mural had become “a point of pride,” said Meader, a professor emeritus at Colby College.

A photo of the original mural guides the Meaders’ restorations, which are done in water-based acrylics. Only darker shadowing in the recesses of the rock, and a small trout that Abbott added because he fishes for them in the park, have changed it through the years.

Bissell called the mural and its vast canvas “an icon of the northern Maine woods.”

“Every time they redo this rock,” Bissell added, “it gets a little better.”