Step #1 Using a hand pump or backpack 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.
The sprayer works fine, maybe a little slow because it doesn’t put out a lot of product at once – it has held up just fine storing leftover stripper until my next session. I don’t think I could hold it for months like that but it’s probably fine for a week at which point I’d just pour any unused stripper back into the original jug.
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 semi-transparent oil based Cabot stain. I do not recommend hard polyurethane products like Sikkens because they look worse in the long term.