The Washington Post

President Obama took a stroll. In public. And talked to people.

President Obama did something unusual yesterday: He took a walk.

"It's good to be out," he said as he strolled across the Ellipse, suit jacket tossed over his shoulder. "The bear is loose."

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We have no idea why Obama referred to himself as "the bear." But loose he was, shaking hands with passersby, wishing one man a happy birthday, giving two little girls each a box of presidential M&M's, listening to some guy yell "America! Freedom! Woooo!" and apologizing to runners. "Sorry to mess up your run," Obama said, then basically telling them to get back to working out. "You could be running in place right now," he said.

He also ran into a very excited woman named Karen.

"Oh my gosh, this is like the best day of my life," Karen said. She then posed for a photo with Obama. "Oh my gosh, someone is going to think you're, like, wax."

Now that this particularly dreary Washington winter is over, Obama seems to be getting out more. Earlier this week, he popped by a Little League game in Northwest Washington, where his field of dreams featured his spokesman's daughter. Wednesday's walk had a business purpose: He was heading to the Department of the Interior, where he would declare the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of New Mexico a national monument.

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Last Friday, he took a ride to Shake Shack, where he talked about infrastructure investment with workers on a Washington construction project and, as he likes to do, ate a cheeseburger.

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Obama's pit stops and walks over the past few days are notable because, unlike previous presidents (remember Bill Clinton's fast food runs?), he doesn't often get out and spontaneously mingle with the masses. Wednesday's walk was also conducted in an area that a special Secret Service unit, nicknamed "prowler," monitors each day to protect the president and his family. They're on even higher alert when the president is moving, or in this case, walking.

President Teddy Roosevelt used to take his often out-of-shape aides on grueling hikes through Rock Creek Park. And, according to the National Park Service, he used to like to swim naked in the creek. Speaking of skinny dipping, legend has it that John Quincy Adams used to take an unclothed dip in the Potomac River each morning.

Let's forget those visuals and get back to the idea of hiking, which Obama joked that he missed at the national monument dedication.

Obama said he cherished "memories of what it’s like to go on a hike without a security detail behind me. It’s a wistful feeling."

For now, he'll have to settle for a loose bear every once and awhile.

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.

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