When I was a kid, going to the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Sanctuary in Rigaud was an annual tradition. Every summer, on a sunny Sunday, my whole family (and often the extended family) would head to Mont Rigaud. There, we attended mass in the open air, we visited the shop and the cave where you can collect blessed water, and if (and only if) we had behaved well, my parents would allow us to follow the trail that leads to the cross at the top of the mountain (which, now that I think about it, has not happened often).
And the trail itself passed through a very curious place: a vast field of round stones in the middle of the forest. My mother told us each time the legend about these stones: farmers who worked on Sunday saw all their potatoes turned into stone as punishment for not having respected the day of the Lord. That’s why the place is nicknamed the “potato field” (it’s also dubbed “devil’s field”, but its more official name is “champ de guérets”).
I returned recently to the Mont Rigaud. I am older, and I know now that potatoes do not miraculously turn into stones. But the “potato field” is still for me a curious place. Why can we find all these small round stones in the middle of the forest?
There is a simple geological explanation. These stones were actually torn off, polished, and rounded by the glaciers, then transported and left there when the glaciers retreated. The forest has grown all around, giving its particular and mysterious aspect to this famous field of stones.
The field of stones is easily accessible by following a path from the sanctuary. Be careful if you venture there: many trails leave from the field and it can sometimes be a little difficult to find your way there (well, I admit, I took the wrong path and got a little lost… and only realized it after walking 30 minutes in the wrong direction).
The main trail is quite easy to follow. And if (and only if) you have behaved well, continue your way to the top of Mont Rigaud. At an elevation of over 200 metres, the summit provides a beautiful view of the village of Rigaud, the Ottawa River and the hills of Oka.