IN PERSON: Members Only Skunks & Spies Hike


Trek six miles through the deceptively sleepy suburb of Vienna, VA to see where the FBI's most damaging spy, Robert Hanssen, lived, and where he was busted in a public park. And along the way, eyeball winter-blooming skunk cabbage, one of the wackiest plants on our planet.


When: Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, 10:00am ET

Where: Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St., SE, Vienna, VA, 22180


Former CIA officer S. George Imredy is teaming up with fellow Harvard Club member and guidebook author Barbara Saffir for this largely flat combo nature and spy hike on sidewalks, dirt and paved trails, a boardwalk, and an optional brief foray in the yucky muck.  


If we were skulking around Vienna in January of 2001, we might bump into Russian spies trading cash and diamonds for secrets from an FBI agent turned traitor, a CIA building hidden in plain sight, and a chartreuse- and cranberry-colored wildflower poking through the ice. Despite its repulsive moniker, skunk cabbage imperceptibly stinks, generates its own heat, transforms from female to male, and bursts into bloom each January with a curvy structure that resembles a Georgia O'Keefe painting on the outside surrounding a coronavirus-looking ball on the inside.   These days the spies are gone -- or are they? -- but the skunk cabbage remains.


We'll start at the Vienna Community Center and walk along the W&OD Trail and Wolftrap Creek to the former CIA building. In 2007, it became the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center. It drew some unwanted attention from neighbors in 2012 when there was a "constant, high-pitched buzzing sound coming" from the unmarked office building, the Washington Post reported.


We'll also check out the building's 9-11 memorial featuring ruins from the World Trade Center.  Then we'll explore the nearby skunk cabbage.  Get as close as you dare.  After that we'll trek through along tree-lined streets to a foot bridge in Foxstone Park, the so-called "Ellis" drop site where Hanssen was arrested for espionage on Feb. 18, 2001 for trading American secrets to Russia and the former Soviet Union. "What took you so long?" Hanssen asked as he was handcuffed.  The FBI still calls him the most damaging spy in its history. After that, we'll check out a second patch of skunk cabbage before we saunter past Hanssen's former home. Then we'll head back to the start on the epic W&OD Trail.  Robert Hanssen, aka Prisoner #48551-083, won't ever visit Vienna again. He's serving life without parole at  America's highest security prison, ADX Florence in Colorado, alongside the Boston Marathon bomber, drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and other infamous criminals. They subsist 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.


How to Get There: Free parking in the community center parking lot and on surrounding side streets.  The Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station is roughly two miles away. Copy these GPS coordinates into Google maps: 38.900863, -77.260244. Learn more about the town of Vienna at


Meetup Instructions: We'll meet outside the entrance of the Vienna Community Center.  Look for the statues of a little boy and little girl.  Your two contacts will be wearing baseball caps and each carrying a Washingtonian magazine in their right hands.  One of them will approach you and ask, "Do you know if there is a post office near here?" and you should reply, "I believe there is, but it is closed for construction."  If someone approaches you without these correct paroles (code words), you SHOULD NOT ENGAGE with them. 


Weather: Snow/ice cancels but we will hike in very light rain. 


Miscellaneous: No small children or pets, please. Restrooms only at the start.


Bring/Wear: Bring water and wear shoes suitable for potentially muddy trails.  Camera optional.  Please consider dressing for 10 degrees colder than the temperature and wearing gloves, a hat, a scarf or gaiter, ear cover, warm shoes, wool socks, and hand/toe warmers. 


Learn more about Robert Hanssen:


Learn more about the Foxstone Trail:


Covid-related Safety Requirements: If you have recently tested positive or have symptoms, please do not attend this event.  If you are ill, please notify us prior to the start of the event and we will be happy to credit your ticket payment to a future event.  The Club encourages everyone to be vaccinated and boosted, and to wear masks indoors when not eating or drinking, especially when social distance cannot be maintained. 


Fee: $5 per person


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10:00AM - 1:30PM Sun 22 Jan 2023, Eastern timezone


Vienna Community Center
120 Cherry St., SE
Vienna, VA 22180

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