I decided to brave the biting cold once again for a short hike in Oka National Park in Québec. Why Oka? Firstly, because I had never been there, and then because I was looking for a place where the trails were still accessible in winter, and this is the case in Oka.
It should also be noted that beyond its natural wealth, Oka National Park also has an interesting historical heritage. That’s why I decided to focus on what is probably its most popular trail, the Calvaire Trail.
The Calvaire Trail is a Way of the Cross which was built in 1740 on the hill of Oka. At that time, the Ways of the Cross were very popular in Europe and missionaries in the Montreal area decided to import this practice on the other side of the Atlantic. The Way of the Cross was built near the mission of Lac des Deux-Montagnes to teach the Passion of the Christ to Native people converted to Catholicism.
In the next century, the Way of the Cross in Oka became one of the most popular religious pilgrimage sites in the Montreal area. Thousands of people came to the Calvaire celebrations in September each year and made the climb to the top three chapels singing and praying.
The Way of the Cross of Oka lost its popularity during the 20th century. In the 1970s, it was acquired by the Quebec government, which then created the Oka National Park. Work has been undertaken to restore the four oratories and three chapels of the trail. The sculptures inside, damaged by time and vandalism, were moved to the parish church and replaced by reproductions. The trail is now classified as an historic site.
I was completely alone on the trail today. Hard to imagine that at one time, they were thousands to make the same way as me. But I must admit that the serenity of the trail, lined with maples and birches, makes it a perfect place for a spiritual or religious pilgrimage.
The trail is 6 km round trip. The park classifies this trail as difficult, but personally, I found it relatively easy (the summit of Calvaire d’Oka has a hundred meters of elevation, so it is not very high). It is possible to continue hiking on the Summit Trail (and add 3 kilometres to the distance traveled), but I decided to return wisely to my car, because the cold began to get the better of me.
It should also be noted that entry to the national park costs around $ 8. The trail is well marked, there are several maps on the way and arrows indicate the way to go to the chapels at the top of Oka hill.