13 Hikers Got Free Apples and Cheese at Oka
It was sunny and 9 C at 10 am on Sun morning as the 13 of us assembled in the parking lot at the base of the hill in the northern part of the park. We were there to conquer the peaks of Oka park. And what’s more, the word was out that there was free food to be had at the top of the trail, so we were on a mission!
Most visitors to the park take the Sentier du Calvaire d’Oka. That is the more direct route to the “three chapels” lookout, where the food was supposed to be. But that would have been too easy for our hardy band of hikers, so we walked to the east end of the parking lot and set out on the Sentier du Sommet trail. This trail is actually designated as a mountain bike trail, but we only saw a couple of bikes the whole time we were on it. The first half of this trail has some steep ups and downs. The skiers among us who have been on this trail in the winter found it to look almost more intimidating without snow — do we really ski down this steep hill?!
After about 2 km of walking we reached a lookout where there used to be a warming hut, but it has disappeared and has been replaced by a couple of picnic tables. Note that Oka park considers this point to be the official summit, as opposed to the three chapels lookout. We were thrown off by the absence of the cabin so we did not even pause to take a look from this summit viewpoint. We kept walking and eventually passed a couple of closed trails. We continued along until we reached a fork in the trails and we realized we had made a loop. With some help from a knowledgeable passer-by, we figured out that we should have turned on to one of those blocked trails. So we backtracked about 1 km and got back on the right path. Looking at the park map after the fact, ( http://www.sepaq.com/dotAsset/32615.pdf ) the problem is that there is no official link between the mountain bike path we started out on and the path that goes to the three chapels lookout. There was a bit of déjà vu in all this — I am sure we have missed this turn before!
We finally joined up with the Sentier du Calvaire and a few minutes later we reached the three chapels lookout. There was indeed food being handed out to all comers. And there many comers — the lookout was quite crowded! We lined up at the food table and were handed apples, Oka cheese, and chocolate covered cranberries. After about 20 minutes of enjoying the treats and the view, we started down on the Sentier du Calvaire. This trail has five mini-chapels along it, each of which contains a painted wooden bas relief carving depicting a religious scene. Half an hour later we were back at the cars. The whole hike had taken just over two and a half hours, which was our estimate.
It was another great day for a hike, all the more so with the leaves at the height of their colour change. Check out the photos on the web site.