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I have done this work professionally and for best results you will want to go with a multistage process.
Step #1 Using a hand pump or back pack sprayer apply deck stripper.
If your deck has no old stain left you can use deck detergent and a bristle brush but because you want to go lighter I recommend a proper stripper.Step #2 Powerwash the stripper off.
Rent a power washer, a proper high pressure gas powered unit. Use a flat fan spray tip. Practice away from the wood first and when you start start out of the way because technique is important. The fan should hit the wood hard enough to wash all the stripper and old stain off but not so hard it tears out the grain.
Step #3 Apply wood brightener.
The caustic in the stripper destroys the lignin in the wood lifting the cellulose and darkening the wood additionally time, tannin, mildews etc stain. Apply this with a sprayer while the deck is still wet after washing.Step #4 Let the deck dry thoroughly.
It may take a couple days but all the way dry makes the next step go easier.
Step #5 Sand the Deck.
The wood is fuzzy now because the cellulose fibers are standing up where the lignin has been removed or where it was physically moved by the spray. Use an upright random orbit sander like those used on wood floors for the deck.
Step #6 Remove the sawdust.
Blow or sweep all the sawdust off of the deck so it does not interfere with the next step.
Step #7 Stain the deck.
It sounds like you want to enjoy the beauty of your wood and I feel the same, so I recommend a semitransparent oil based stain like the Cabot products. I do not recommend hard polyurethane products like Sikkens because they look worse in the long term.