About two years ago, I swore never to return to Mitchell’s Creek at Sunny Corner just west of Lithgow to prospect for gold, because there’s no ROI. The closest alluvial creek to metropolitan Sydney, it’s played out — or as we say in the trade, flogged.

Forgetting that it’s an hour closer than the Winburndale, I set off for Mitchell’s Creek this morning too early and had to stop at a servo to wait for dawn and eat a Pluto Pup, or Dagwood Dog if you prefer, so-called because it both tastes and resembles a battered dog’s penis.

Then it’s light, and I’m passing Kirkconnell Correctional Centre, whose inmates’ bitter tears make the (imaginatively named) Kirkconnell Creek saltier than Mitchell’s, which explains why their confluence warrants a name-change: the Windburndale Rivulet.

This is my destination, because the confluence is the most reliable gold-trap on Mitchell’s, and this is a scouting mission for a trip I’ll be making with Child Number 3 and his father–in-law whom I shall herewith dub ‘Ian’.

Ian and CN3 obviously/unrealistically want to find gold on their first field trip, so I’d better deliver the goods. And the goods it delivered. My first three pans yielded 22 specks of yellow, and things were looking sweet until company arrived.

Not wanting to sound like a total misanthrope, I welcome brothers Clem and Cletus who unexpectedly and un-invited-edly join me on the river. As in, right beside me, so close I’m awash in their muddy tailings. After a half-hour of this, I silently pack up and move on.

This is where it gets scary. Ignoring the warning signs, I stray into dropbear country. There’s a line on the map where Sunny Corner becomes Dark Corner — I kid you not — and the historic reason for this is dropbears.

For this reason, even though the mercury is edging into the 30’s (90’s), I keep my heavy Filson workshirt on to protect my arms, and carry my full pack. Better to have a pickaxe at hand than go mano-a-mano with a full-grown thylarctos plummetus.

Just as I’m narrowing in on the eluvial bench that’s shedding ancient gold into Mitchell’s, I hear that dreaded grunt. Not quite ursine but not unlike it either, it makes you stop and look up. When the call was answered by another, then another, I grab my pack and run for my life.

Safely back at the car, my scouting mission abbreviated, the mysterious headwaters of Mitchell’s Creek remain shrouded in legend. A handful of hardy, some say reckless souls have prospected those dark waters, few have returned.

Later, over a comforting flat-white from McDonald’s at Lithgow, I count my blessings and decide that ‘Ian’ and CN3 will be safer where Mitchell’s meets Kirkconnell. Show them how to hunt for wild gold.

Plus, it’s always handy having somebody slower along.

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