I know the meaning of 'to take in' is similar with 'to understand', and 'on one's way back' is 'to go back to where he/she was', but I don't understand the sentence below.
They brought jays here from all over the United States to look down that hole, every summer for three years. Other birds, too. And they could all see the point, except an owl that come from Nova Scotia to visit the Yosemite, and he took this thing in on his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny in it. But then he was a good deal disappointed about Yosemite, too.
-from 'Baker's blue-jay yarn' by Mark Twain
I guess the context above means that the owl neither understands the story about the hole nor has a sense of humor, and only understands what happened there on his way back to his place (Yosemite). Also, he isn't impressed with Yosemite.